Mask rule return eyed amid COVID spike
WASHINGTON, DC, United States — The government may reimpose the mandatory wearing of face masks in view of the increase in COVID-19 infections since March, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Sunday.
“We might have to think about it if it’s really [necessary],” the President told reporters during his flight to Washington for his official visit to the United States.
“Although the rate of increase is growing, the baseline of where it started is just low, so hopefully we’re still going to be able to [control] it,” he said.
He also said the government may have to carry out another vaccination drive targeting the younger population.
Marcos said the dry season may be affecting people’s immune systems.
“That will make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 again,” he said. “So we’ll look at it…. I hope we don’t have to [require face masks again], but we might. But I hope not.”
The president said he would wait for the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
In September last year, Marcos scrapped the mandatory use of face masks outdoors upon the IATF’s recommendation.
The next month, he allowed the voluntary use of face masks indoors except in public transportation and health facilities.
With these directives, the president said he was aiming to further open up the economy after two years of pandemic restrictions.
This year, COVID-19 infections have been rising since March — the biggest increase being the 311 cases recorded on March 24 from 137 recorded the previous day.
The last time coronavirus cases breached the 300 level was the 399 cases reported on Jan. 22.
During Holy Week, the daily average number of new cases climbed to 278 from the previous week’s 246 cases, then further rose to 341 on the week of April 9.
Also that week, the positivity rate in Metro Manila and 13 provinces breached the 5-percent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization to indicate that virus transmission is under control.
Hospital bed utilization
Average daily new infections increased higher to 450 cases in the week of April 16. Yet despite that upward trend, the DOH reported that hospital bed utilization was still lower than the low-risk threshold of 20 percent.
Of the country’s 82 provinces, 56 remained under alert level 1, the lowest in the IATF’s five-level alert category, while the 26 other provinces have remained under alert level 2 since June last year due to their low vaccination rates.
The DOH did not release its weekly COVID-19 bulletin on Monday — which would have provided data on the coronavirus situation as of April 23—as it cited “technical difficulties in the data migration process of our technical offices.”
In an advisory on Monday night, the department said it would release the bulletin on Tuesday morning.