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Marcos makes face-masking ‘optional’ both indoors, outdoors

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Friday made optional the wearing of face masks indoors and outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The directive was provided under Executive Order No. 7, marking the first time since March 2020 that the public has had the option to wear face masks or otherwise in indoor settings.

"A policy of voluntary wearing of face masks in both indoor and outdoor settings is a step towards normalization and a welcome development that would encourage activities and boost efforts toward the full reopening of the economy," the EO read.

EO 7, however, still recommends the wearing of face masks for the elderly, individuals with comorbidities, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, as well as unvaccinated individuals and people with COVID-19 symptoms.

The mandatory wearing of face masks will still be implemented in the following areas:

  • healthcare facilities, including, but not limited to clinics, hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, and dialysis clinics
  • medical transport vehicles, such as ambulances and paramedic rescue vehicles
  • public transportation by land, air or sea

Marcos called on the general public to exercise diligence in carrying out health protocols such as practicing good hygiene, frequent hand-washing, physical distancing, and maintenance of good ventilation especially in indoor settings.

He also directed all local government units to submit regular reports on their vaccination status to the Department of Health.  

Areas that are currently at low risk classification for COVID-19 but at Alert Level 2 status due to failure to meet vaccination targets to warrant deescalation were also "highly encouraged" to undertake efforts to further expand their vaccination and booster coverage.

EO 7 was issued three days after Tourism chief Christina Frasco announced that Marcos was set to relax COVID-19 protocols involving the wearing of face masks.

Marcos earlier issued EO No. 3 on September 12, allowing the optional wearing of face masks in outdoor settings.

Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the DOH Technical Advisory Group Pediatric Infectious Diseases, meanwhile, called for the continued use of face masks by students.

At a Kapihan session of the DOH on Wednesday, Lim said there was nothing to lose if students continued 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 increase whenever there is a shift in scenarios or if protocols are eased.

Despite the relaxed protocols on mask wearing, Marcos will not immediately lift the state of public health emergency due to COVID-19, according to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire on Friday.

Vergeire said the development came after World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the President in a meeting earlier this week that the WHO would continue to treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency. 

"He told that to the President, and the President said, 'Yes, we understand,’" she said. —NB/VBL, GMA News