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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is set to allow the voluntary wearing of face masks indoors.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco made the announcement during the Malacañang press briefing on Tuesday, October 25, after their Cabinet meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“As a result of the Cabinet meeting this morning, it was agreed that the President would be issuing an executive order for the IATF recommendation to make indoor mask wearing also voluntary all over the Philippines,” Frasco said, as she addressed reporters, instead of a health secretary which the President has yet to appoint.
“Mask wearing would also be highly encouraged for unvaccinated individuals, the persons with comorbidities as well as senior citizens,” Frasco added.
Mask wearing would still be required in public transportation as well as medical facilities, she said.
The tourism official also said that move to ease the pandemic protocol was “to allow our country to be at par with our ASEAN neighbors who have long liberalized their mask mandates.”
This development comes as the Philippines detected cases of the more transmissible Omicron subvariant XBB.
The XBB, another subvariant of the more transmissible Omicron variant, is reportedly behind the increase in cases in Singapore in recent weeks. While the XBB appears to evade vaccine immunity and is even more transmissible than the BA.5 subvariant, Singapore health authorities said there was no evidence that the variant has caused more severe illness in patients who have been infected so far.
In September, Marcos allowed the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings, which was opposed by top Philippine medical experts. They said that it would send a wrong message to the public that they “should not be afraid of COVID-19 anymore.” (READ: Outdoor wearing of face masks now optional in the Philippines) – Rappler.com