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DOT lifts face mask, vaccination policies in tourist spots

Wearing of face masks and showing proof of full COVID-19 vaccination in tourist spots are no longer required based on the recent memorandum issued by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The agency said that these eased health and safety guidelines in the tourism establishments are part of the measures to support the national government’s liberalization of the COVID-19 restrictions in the country, and would therefore boost the further opening of the country to tourists and travelers.

Currently, wearing of face masks both in indoor and outdoor settings in the country is voluntary, based on the executive order released by Malacañang in October last year.

The DOT Memorandum Circular 2023-0002 also lifted the earlier requirement for tourism establishments to install plastic, acrylic barriers, and dividers in designated areas.

It also ordered for the removal of signages, visual cues, and other installations on mandatory protocols.

The DOT also announced that it will no longer issue the Philippine Safety Seal and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travels Stamp to tourism enterprises found compliant to guidelines set in accordance with Joint Memorandum Circular No. 21-01 issued by the DOT and other national government agencies on the Safety Seal Certification Program, and Memorandum Circular 2022-003, respectively.

Additionally, accommodation establishments no longer need to include the number, nature of work, and length of stay of permitted guests, as well as names of companies or businesses with employees that are booked with the establishment, when submitting monthly reports to the DOT’s Regional Offices.

“This latest issuance on the relaxed health and safety guidelines for tourism establishments reinforces the Department of Tourism’s commitment towards addressing the economic hardships of the tourism industry brought about by the lockdowns and restrictions of the pandemic,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said in a statement.

“It sends the important message that, under the Marcos Administration, our country is open for tourism, and that we are keeping up with global practices on tourism operations that have already opened up worldwide.”

‘Individual choice’

In an ambush interview on Tuesday, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire reminded that while it is no longer mandated by the national government, wearing of face masks remains to be an individual choice.

“People or us will be choosing kung tayo, sa tingin natin, kailangan mag-mask, mag-mask tayo. Kung sa tingin natin hindi naman kailangan, pwede tayong hindi mag-mask. Kailangan din syempre, lagi nating iisipin, kung tayo ay nagi-isip kung magma-mask tayo o hindi, isipin natin kung bakunado ba tayo kasi mas madaming proteksyon kung bakunado,” she said.

(People will be choosing now if there is a need to wear a face mask or not. It is also necessary to consider our vaccination status when wondering whether to wear masks or not as vaccination gives better protection.) 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) updated guidelines on COVID-19 recommended the continued use of masks by those recently exposed to COVID-19, those who have or suspect they have COVID-19, those at high-risk of severe COVID-19, and those in a crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated space.

The WHO also suggested mask wearing depending on the risk assessment like local epidemiological trends or rising hospitalization levels, levels of vaccination coverage and immunity in the community, and the setting people find themselves in. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News