The use of face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic is now optional in well-ventilated and open spaces in Cebu province, according to an executive order issued by Governor Gwen Garcia.
Under Executive Order No. 16, the wearing of face masks shall be required only in closed and air-conditioned spaces.
“On the other hand, the use of face masks shall be optional in well-ventilated and open spaces,” Garcia said in the order.
“However, persons are highly encouraged to continue to wear their masks, especially in crowded outdoor areas,” she added.
Further, individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or runny nose are still required to wear face masks at all times when leaving their homes.
According to Garcia, other countries such as Singapore have already directed the wearing of face masks and other personal protective equipment to be optional in outdoor settings due to the global improvement of the situation.
“As a necessary step towards the new normal, there is a need to rationalize the requirement on wearing of masks,” she said.
The Cebu government also cited Section 456 of the Local Government Code that “empowers the Provincial Governor to carry out such emergency measures as may be necessary during and in the aftermath of a man-made and natural disaster or calamity.”
Minimum public health standards
In a message to reporters, the DOH reiterated that minimum public health standards such as the wearing of masks and vaccination has helped in maintaining the low number of cases despite the detection of subvariants.
“Scientific evidence supports the use of best-fitting face masks in reducing the transmission not only of COVID-19, but also other infectious and respiratory diseases including Monkeypox, should it reach our country,” it said.
Citing current IATF protocols, the agency stressed that masks can only be removed in specific instances such as during meal times or during well-ventilated sports and activities.
“The COVID-19 virus is still present and the pandemic is not yet over. Individuals can still catch the virus, most especially for our vulnerable population,” it said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire previously said that the country’s mask mandate would be the last to go among health protocols.
At present, the country has recorded a total of 3,692,084 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 2,440 remain active.—Joahna Lei Castillo/AOL/RSJ, GMA News