COVID-19 Crisis: President Marcos approves optional use of face masks outdoors

After much online buzz that was created in reaction to the recommendation by the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., finally approved an executive order (EO) that allows the optional use of face masks outdoors according to an announcement published through the Philippine News Agency (PNA). In other words, what the IATF recommended is quickly becoming a new policy but there are key details that need to be read closely.

To put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from the PNA article. Some parts in boldface…

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has approved an executive order (EO) allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings, particularly in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.

“Naglabas po tayo today ng Executive Order No. 3 (We have released EO No. 3) allowing voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings and reiterating the continued implementation of minimum public health standards during the state of public health emergency relating to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced in a Palace press briefing.

She said the EO, signed by the President on Monday, will be effective immediately.

This order shall take effect immediately upon its publication in the OG [Official Gazette] or newspaper of general circulation. Nasa OG na po siya (It has been published in the OG),” she said.

Under the EO, those who have yet to complete their primary Covid-19 vaccination series, senior citizens, and immunocompromised persons are still “highly encouraged” to use face masks.

Cruz-Angeles said physical distancing and other minimum public health standards (MPHS) will also continue to be strictly enforced.

“The voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation is hereby allowed provided that not fully vaccinated individuals, senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals are highly encouraged to wear their masks and physical distancing will be observed at all times,” she added.

The EO still requires face masks to be worn in indoor, private or public establishments, including in public transportation by land, air or sea and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

“Tuloy pa rin po ang other (We will continue adhering to other) minimum public health standards intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the country. It shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision making, socio economic equity and rights-based approach,” Cruz-Angeles said.

She said the EO also directs the Department of Health (DOH) to update the MPHS guidelines.

Open to feedback

Cruz-Angeles said the voluntary wearing of face masks will be implemented in phases or stages to gather feedback from health authorities.

We’re doing this in stages, in phases so that we can have feedback on whether or not these new policies are working and how to make them more efficient so that hopefully by the end of the year we might be able to be voluntarily masked indoors as well,” she said.

She said the policy will be reviewed if the voluntary face mask policy would cause an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: What is your reaction to this new development? Do you believe that the entire Philippines and its many local government units (LGUs) are ready to comply with the new policy approved by President Marcos? If you have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, do you seriously see yourself using face masks extensively in the future? Do you think that the anti-vaccine fanatics will spread fear and distort information related to the new policy that allows the optional use of face masks in outdoor settings? With the way things are right now, have you grown sick and tired of using face masks each time you go outdoors?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

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