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Gov’t mandates wearing of face masks in areas under enhanced community quarantine

The government has ordered residents in areas covered by the enhanced community quarantine to wear face masks in public spaces to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a Malacañang official said Thursday.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a virtual press conference that the measure was approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“For areas placed under ECQ, the IATF hereby adopts the policy of mandatory wearing by all residents of face masks, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable or do-it-yourself masks, face shields, handkerchiefs, or such other protective equipment that can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19, whenever allowed to go out of their residences,” Nograles said.

Local government units will have to pass ordinances to carry out the IATF’s directive and impose penalties "as may be appropriate," he said.

According to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a memorandum circular is already being issued to LGUs for this directive.

“We are now issuing [a] memo circular to LGUs para ipatupad ang mandatory wearing of mask for all people who are given exemption to the lockdown,” he told reporters.

“Effective na 'yan today kasi kagabi ay nareceive na namin 'yan as a resolution,” Año said.

Asked if those who will not follow will be arrested, Año said, “Yes, sa ngayon i-a-accost natin ang mga walang mask. Puwede naman kasi improvised mask, kung wala kang mabili eh di gumawa ka ng mask, 'yung handkerchief nga puwede magamit 'yan."

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said last January that surgical face masks were disposable and should only be used for eight to 10 hours. Otherwise, these may serve as sources of bacteria due to prolonged exposure.

The novel coronavirus may be transmitted through droplets, according to the Health chief.

The Luzon-wide quarantine, which began on March 17 and will end on April 13, entailed sweeping restrictions on travel and mass gatherings as well as closure of schools and most businesses.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Philippine health authorities have recorded 2,311 COVID-19 cases in the country. Of this number, 96 patients have died and 50 have recovered. — with Anna Felicia Bajo/RSJ, GMA News