In the Philippines, the wearing of face masks when going outside is now voluntary.
According to Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, the new policy will go into force as soon as possible.
The ruling allows for the voluntary use of masks in noncrowded and outdoor venues with adequate ventilation.
Those who have not been fully immunized against COVID-19, older citizens, and immunocompromised individuals, on the other hand, are “strongly urged” to wear masks and maintain physical distance at all times.
Face masks should still be used in interior environments, including mass transportation, and in outdoor spaces where physical distance cannot be maintained.
The order directs the Department of Health to amend the minimum public health standards guidelines.
The Department of Health and the government’s pandemic task force may submit recommendations for additional adjustments to the MPHS, such as the liberalization of indoor mask requirements, if metrics for monitoring the status of COVID-19, such as vaccination rates and betterment in COVID-19 booster coverage, indicate the need for such changes.
“We’re doing this 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 voluntarily mask indoors as well,” Cruz-Angeles said.
Philippines removes mandatory wearing of face mask
Meanwhile, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer-in-charge of the Department of Health, stated that the agency’s policy was to maintain the mask requirement even outside.
“But during the IATF meeting, several [pieces of] evidence were presented by other sectors,” Vergeire said.
“So we did that compromise whereby we agreed that masking outdoors will be lifted only among low-risk individuals and in low-risk settings. This means masking will be optional for those who are not vulnerable,” she said.
More than 72 million Filipinos have completed vaccination against COVID-19. However, only 18 million people have gotten boosters.
The Philippines has confirmed 3.9 million COVID-19 cases, with over 62,000 deaths, since the pandemic started in 2020.