COVID-19 cases must stabilize first before face mask policy can be lifted –DOH

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines must stabilize first before the national government can lift the mandatory face mask policy, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday.

“Kailangan po nakita natin stable na po ‘yung mga kaso dito sa ating bansa [We must see first that the number of cases have stabilized]. When we say stable, nakikita natin acceptable na po ‘yung mga bilang ng mga kaso sa atin,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a radio interview

Vergeire said COVID-19 is not yet in its endemic stage in the country.

“When we talk about endemic stage, ang ibig sabihin niyan ang mga kaso ay stable na at pangalawa mataas ang immunity ng population,” she said.

(When we say endemic stage, this means that the cases are stable and the immunity of the population is high.)

She said that while COVID-19 cases in the country are stabilizing and severe and critical cases remain low, the government has yet to reach its vaccination target.

“And there is evidence na nagpapakita na mukhang bumababa na ‘yung immunity ng ating populasyon. So kailangan ‘yung safeguards natin, nandyan pa rin hanggang makita natin na mataas na ‘yung immunity ng population,” Vergeire said.

(And there is evidence that shows that our population immunity is decreasing. So our safeguards must remain in place until we see that our immunity remains high.)

On Wednesday, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama signed an executive order making face mask use non-obligatory in outdoor and open spaces in the city.

Vergeire said making the wearing of face masks “non-obligatory” has big implications.

“Kung ang local government po ang magpapatupad at magsasabi volumtary na lang, baka po talagang very risky because other constituents might follow at magkaroon ng mas mataas na risk of infection diyan sa kanilang lugar,” she said.

Vergeire said that while the local government has autonomy, LGUs must also follow the mandate of the national government. She said LGUs must coordinate “at the least.”

Vergeire said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the government’s policy-making body in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to convene next week. —KBK, GMA News

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