DOT eases face mask, vax proof rule in tourist spots
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) has eased up its COVID-19 preventive health directives to tourism establishments as it promotes the continuous opening of the country to travelers and tourists.
The wearing of face masks and the presentation of cards showing proof of full vaccination will no longer be required in tourism establishments, the DOT said.
The agency has issued DOT Memorandum Circular 2023-0002 that provides the guidelines in further easing the health and safety protocols governing the operations of tourism establishments.
“This latest issuance on the relaxed health and safety guidelines for tourism establishments reinforces the Department of Tourism’s commitment towards addressing the economic hardships of the tourism industry brought about by the lockdowns and restrictions of the pandemic,” said Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco in a statement.
“It sends the important message across that, under the Marcos administration, our country is open for tourism, and that we are keeping up with global practices on tourism operations that have already opened up worldwide,” she added.
Through the memorandum circular, the DOT also ordered the lifting of the previous administration’s earlier requirement for tourism establishments to install plastic, acrylic barriers and dividers in designated areas. It also ordered the removal of signage, visual cues and other installations on mandatory protocols.
The DOT also announced that it would no longer issue the PH Safety Seal and the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Safe Travels Stamp to tourism enterprises found compliant with the guidelines set in accordance with the government’s safety seal certification program.
Further, in submitting monthly reports to the DOT’s regional offices, accommodation establishments will no longer need to include the number, nature of work, and length of stay of permitted guests, as well as names of companies or businesses with employees that are booked with the establishment, it added.
Still a threat
But despite the easing of health and safety protocols, the Department of Health (DOH) continued to remind the public not to be complacent against the threat of COVID-19.
It reported on Monday an additional 913 COVID-19 cases from Feb. 27 to March 5, or an average of 130 infections daily, up by 10 percent compared to the 832 cases from Feb. 20 to Feb. 26.
Among the new cases reported, none was considered severe and critical, the DOH said.
Independent pandemic monitor Octa Research Group fellow Guido David, in a post on Twitter, also observed that Metro Manila’s seven-day positivity rate increased slightly from 1.6 percent on Feb. 25 to 2 percent on March 4.
Positivity rate is the percentage of tests conducted that came out positive for COVID-19.
The World Health Organization’s benchmark positivity rate of below 5 percent, sustained for two weeks, indicates that virus transmission is under control.
The DOH, meanwhile, reported 8,943 active cases, including 395 severe and critical cases as of March 5.
A total of 56 new COVID-19 deaths were verified during the past week, 10 of which occurred in February; the rest happened between November 2020 and March 2022 but were reported only recently.
The latest fatalities pushed the death toll to 66,153, while the country’s total caseload as of March 5 was 4,077,002, according to the DOH COVID-19 bulletin.
There were 4,001,906 who recovered from the respiratory illness.
On the other hand, 2,840 out of 16,871 or 16.8 percent of non-intensive care unit (ICU) beds were occupied while 263 out of 1,978 or 13.3 percent of ICU beds were in use.
The DOH weekly case bulletin also included the government’s vaccination accomplishment with over 73.8 million Filipinos, or 94.61 percent of the target population, now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Of this number, 3,728 completed their vaccine shots from Feb. 27 to March 5.
The DOH also said that over 21.5 million individuals had received their booster shots, with 40,238 boosted during the same period.
In October last year, President Marcos issued an executive order allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in indoor places.
The order, however, made the use of face masks in indoor settings voluntary “with few exceptions,” as it was strictly required in public transportation and medical facilities.
Unvaccinated individuals, people with health conditions, and the elderly were also still “highly encouraged” to wear face masks.
Hong Kong to scrap COVID-19 mask mandate from March 1
Singapore relaxes COVID-19 travel curbs, mask rules further
South Korea’s indoor masking eased, with hope, confusion
Face masks, other measures still key as WHO keeps emergency tag on COVID
WHO urges travelers to wear masks as new COVID variant spreads
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.