COVID-19 shouldn't be exclusive face mask rule basis – expert | Inquirer News

COVID-19 shouldn’t be exclusive face mask rule basis – expert

/ 05:21 PM November 15, 2022
COVID-19 must not be the only basis for face mask use policy, according to an expert.


MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 pandemic must not be the only consideration in crafting the government’s policy on the wearing of face masks, an infectious diseases expert said Tuesday.

During the Laging Handa briefing, Dr. Edsel Salvana pointed out that face mask use has also been proven beneficial against other airborne and respiratory diseases.


According to him, infection rates for influenza and other airborne diseases like the respiratory syncytial virus have increased in the United States (US). He stressed that the policy- and decision-makers must not have COVID-19 infections as the sole basis to either relax or tighten up face mask-wearing in the country.

“The other thing is that we should no longer consider mask mandates just because of COVID-19.  If we look at the situation in the US, they have what is called a tridemic, as influenza cases are increasing,” he said in Filipino.


“They actually have more hospitalizations in the US due to influenza compared to COVID-19, and the RSV or the respiratory syncytial virus which usually hits children is spreading. Their emergency rooms are being filled due to these illnesses, and masks work for those and other respiratory illnesses,” he added.

READ: DOH bares surge in RSV cases; 200 children in PH affected

Salvana, who was part of the Duterte administration’s Department of Health-Technical Advisory Group (DOH-TAG), likewise recalled that when the public was required to wear face masks outside their homes during the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, people were able to avoid contracting the coronavirus and other diseases.

“So for me, rather than thinking about if we need to completely lift masking protocols, the more important thing is that throughout the pandemic we learned that the mask can help prevent not only COVID-19, but a lot of respiratory diseases,” he explained.

“So we should transition [that] instead of masks being coupled with high case cases of COVID-19 or low cases, we should use it as one of our public health interventions that we can employ if number one, we are at risk; or number two, if we have a spike in cases of any respiratory virus in the community,” he added.

From allowing optional face mask use in uncrowded outdoor settings, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. decided on October 28 to also make wearing of face mask voluntary indoors – except while aboard public transportation and in hospital settings.

While there were many who criticized the President for the move as it supposedly “normalizes” the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were government officials who supported it because fewer restrictions would mean a boost for local tourism and businesses.


Since the eased face mask mandate in indoor settings took effect, there had been no significant increase in COVID-19 infections – recent numbers have even shown that the rate was on a downtrend in Metro Manila.

Salvana nevertheless expressed caution, saying that more antigen tests are being done than RT-PCR tests which means lesser results are entering the database.

He clarified though that the real measurement now for COVID-19 transmission must be hospital occupancy which, he said, remains manageable.

“So we’re not absolutely sure what the numbers now mean compared to the time that RT-PCR was solely being used,” Salvana said.

“Although the most important thing right now is to look at our healthcare capacity because whatever the number of case may be, if as long as most of it are mild cases, it would not be so much of a burden to our healthcare system that hospitals would be forced to close down,” he added. With reports from Trisha Manalaysay, trainee


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TAGS: COVID-19, face mask, flu, Health, respiratory syncytial virus
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