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DOH expert urges schools to keep up face-masking ahead of full face-to-face classes

A member of the Department of Health's Technical Advisory Group Pediatric Infectious Diseases has called for the continued use of face masks by students inside school premises a week before the full implementation of face-to-face classes in schools.

At a Kapihan session of the DOH , Dr. Anna Ong-Lim said there was nothing to lose if students would continue wearing their face masks, especially when they gather for five days a week of face-to-face classes starting November 2.

She said COVID-19 infections usually increased whenever there was a shift in scenarios or if protocols were eased amid the still-prevalent pandemic.

“Ito na naman tayo, magkakaron na naman tayo ng pagababago. Magkakaron na naman tayo ng pagkumpol-kumpol ng mga bata sa schools settings. So, mas madali sigurong bantayan kung ano ang magiging epekto ng mga changes na ito kung isa-isa lang ang vina-vary natin,” Lim said.

(Here we are again, about to have changes again. The children will flock to schools again. It might be easier to monitor the effect of these changes if we only vary them one by one.)

“Pwede namang magsuot pa rin sila ng mask habang tinitignan natin or binabantayan natin kung dadami pa ang mga kaso dahil magsasama-sama na ang mga bata sa schools,” she added.

(They can still wear masks while we monitor if there will be more cases because the children will come together in schools.)

The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier said that it would be optional for learners to use face masks in outdoor settings in accordance with the existing national policy.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco on Tuesday announced that President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. would issue an executive order making the wearing of face masks in indoor areas voluntary.

Only people unvaccinated against COVID-19, those with comorbidities, and senior citizens are still "highly encouraged" to wear masks.

Before the schools reopened for in-person classes on August 22, DepEd spokesperson Atty. Michael Poa said only 19% of learners had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, based on the Learner Information System.

Lim said that people, particularly students, should continue to use all the layers available against COVID-19 at their disposal.

“I think we have learned enough in the past two years to realize that masking is very valuable. It’s not particularly difficult naman and I think lahat naman tayo ay nasanay na rin sa isang health habit na ‘to na nakakatulong not just for COVID, but for many other infectious diseases, particularly ‘yung respiratory infections,” Lim said.

(It's not particularly difficult to wear masks, and I think we've all gotten used to this health habit that helps not just for Covid, but for many other infectious diseases, particularly respiratory infections.)

GMA News Online has sought the comment of Poa regarding Lim’s call. He said that he had no comment at the moment. —NB, GMA News