Lawmakers back Marcos Jr. policy on voluntary mask use for indoor areas
MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers from the House of Representatives have backed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s policy allowing the voluntary use of face masks even in indoor settings, with some saying that this rule has long been overdue.
In a statement on Tuesday, Quezon 3rd District Rep. Reynan Arrogancia said that the Philippines is already long overdue for a voluntary masking protocol amid the COVID-19 pandemic — except in crowded areas, mass transportation, and healthcare facilities.
Instead of stringent masking protocols, Arrogancia said that the health authorities should focus on providing the public bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, or shots that are believed to provide better protection against the dominant Omicron variant.
“Our country is long overdue for relaxing the safety protocols. The COVID bulletins show the factual and evidentiary bases of the pandemic spread being severely limited despite the detection of new variants,” he said.
“What the country needs is more of the bivalent booster vaccine supplies, availability, and accessibility to anyone who wants them,” he added.
Manila 3rd District Rep. Joel Chua aired the same sentiments, saying that it seems health officials are “overly cautious”.
According to Chua, there is a need to lift the mask mandate as the country opens tourism sites and educational institutions.
“Health authorities seem to be unnecessarily overly cautious and have needlessly delayed further relaxing of Alert Level One public health safety protocols. They should instead make more of the bivalent booster vaccines available and readily accessible now and more so in the coming weeks. The boosters are the better alternative to mask-wearing,” he said.
“It would be better to get bivalent boosted than to always have to wear face masks,” he added.
Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co meanwhile stated that the relaxed masking protocols would lead to improved public health and a higher output for the economy.
“The lifting of some mask mandates indoors I believe is quite justified. Further calibrated lifting of COVID restrictions plus the economic impact of the 2022 and 2023 national budgets will result in more economic growth,” Co said.
“With the continuing reopening of the economy and lifting of COVID restrictions, I expect gross domestic product or GDP to further improve in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2022,” he claimed.
Just a little over a month after he made the wearing of face masks optional in uncrowded outdoor settings, Marcos is slated to make masking indoors voluntary too.
In a press briefing earlier, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said that the President would make outdoor masking optional, as stated during Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
However, she said that wearing of face masks will still be highly encouraged for unvaccinated individuals, persons with comorbidities, and senior citizens. With reports from Joshua Go, trainee
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