Epidemiologist urges public to continue wearing masks outdoors
MANILA, Philippines — Masks should still be worn outdoors after the Department of Health (DOH) reported the local transmission of the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant XBB and variant XBC.
Epidemiologist John Wong made the call during the DOH’s online town hall meeting, noting that mask use also prevents death from other diseases, particularly respiratory ones, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
“One of the things we learned from the PSA excess mortality data is that masking also helps prevent death from other diseases,” Wong said when asked if the local transmission of cases necessitates the reimposition of the outdoor mask use mandate.
“So in the past few years, we saw a drop in deaths from pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, [and] chronic respiratory diseases, even though there were no major new drugs or interventions in those programs. We can attribute this to the masking in the past two years,” he added.
The PSA data showed a dramatic decrease in the mortality rate from respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, influenza, and tuberculosis for the first half of 2022, compared to the same period last year.
From January to May 2022, the PSA recorded 8,512 deaths for pneumonia, compared to 14,091 of the same period last year; 5,108 deaths for tuberculosis compared to 7,531; and 1,568 deaths for “remainder of diseases of the respiratory system,” compared to 3,041 deaths.
“So even if not for COVID, it is always a good idea to mask in public and to mask whenever you are around people who are vulnerable — the elderly, family, and friends who are sick. So I wish to recommend that people wear masks as much as possible,” Wong said.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., through an executive order, allowed the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings nationwide on September 12.
The DOH declared that there is now a local transmission of COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant and XBC variant.
The XBB subvariant was reported in two regions, while the XBC variant was recorded in 11 regions.
To date, the Philippines recorded 81 XBB subvariant cases, and 193 XBC variant cases.—Kristelle Razon, trainee
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.