MANILA, Philippines – The mandatory wearing of face masks in the country may be lifted towards the end of 2022 if COVID-19 becomes endemic by then, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Thursday, February 17.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this in an interview with ANC’s Headstart on Thursday, when asked for comment on the statement of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. that face masks may no longer be required in open spaces by the last quarter of 2022 if the government would be able to vaccinate 90 million of its 110-million population.
“I think by the end of the year, hopefully, if cases will really be manageable already and we reach that endemic state that we are all hoping for, maybe masks will go. But as I’ve said, this would be the last to go among our interventions,” Vergeire said.
“For us in the medical field and for experts, our vision would be face masks will be the last to go. The mask protects us from a lot of disease, not just COVID-19. If you will notice, our respiratory infections in the country have declined. A lot of things are uncertain right now,” she added.
The DOH said COVID-19 can be considered endemic once “cases are stable, predictable, the constant presence of virus is there, and there is equilibrium between immunity of population and transmission of the disease.”
A number of countries, including those in Europe, have already dropped their mandatory wearing of face masks in most public places although they are still recommended in some indoor places. But the caveat was that a large portion of the population in most of these countries have been vaccinated against COVID-19. In the Philippines, only some 54% of Filipinos have been fully vaccinated so far.
The DOH on Tuesday, February 15, said that the Philippines is back to “low risk” classification for COVID-19 after weeks of reeling from the surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Pandemic task force officials are eyeing to downgrade quarantine classifications to Alert Level 1 – where no restrictions on capacity will be observed – sometime in March, though this would only be done under the condition that “high” vaccination rates are met. – Rappler.com