DOH: Eased mask use ‘disastrous’
MANILA, Philippines — It would be “disastrous” if other local governments would take the relaxed masking policies in Cebu City as their new model for the COVID-19 pandemic response, Department of Health (DOH) officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Friday, as Mayor Michael Rama stood by its order to make masking outdoors voluntary.
At a press conference, Vergeire expressed concern about the possibility of other local governments taking their cue from the voluntary mask-wearing implemented by Rama through his Executive Order No. 5.
“That is one of our worries. We know that when these kinds of [policies] by some local governments continue, other (local government units) may follow suit, and that would be really disastrous for all of us,” she told reporters.
Under the EO, wearing of face masks outdoors would become optional starting Sept. 1.
The health official emphasized that COVID-19 policies in the country should be harmonized “from the local up to national level” so as not to increase further the risk of transmission.
We need to have the same protocols to be able to protect our whole population,” Vergeire noted.
According to Vergeire, face masks can give up to 80-percent protection not only against COVID-19, but also against other contagious infections.
“If you remove mask mandates, you are making the children more vulnerable to infections,” she said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government, for its part, said there was a “miscommunication” between the agency and Rama that resulted in the latter not keeping his word, and insisting to still proceed with the implementation of the city’s policy of making wearing of face masks nonobligatory.
“There seems to be a miscommunication as to what Mayor Rama and I discussed regarding the issue. I respect the statement of Mayor Rama, and I fully intend to keep communication lines open to give him the opportunity to explain his position and basis behind the enactment of the citywide order,” Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said in a statement on Friday.
Despite this, Abalos said he would still raise the issue of lifting the nationwide face mask mandate before the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
He would also continue his commitment to Rama to suggest to the IATF to make Cebu City the pilot implementer of the rule on optional wearing of face masks, saying it “will help assess the lifting of masking protocols in outdoor areas and wide open spaces.”
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