‘Not yet time’ to make masks optional indoors: Philippines health chief

Undersecretary Vergeire said the government should not rush into easing restrictions that protect the public from Covid-19.

Zacarian Sarao

Zacarian Sarao

Philippine Daily Inquirer



September 14, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — It’s not yet time to make wearing face masks indoors optional, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Tuesday at the Department of Health (DOH), which she heads as the officer in charge.

She reminded the public that Executive Order No. 3, which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued on Monday, made wearing a mask optional only outdoors and in non-crowded areas with good ventilation.

She said it would not be advisable to do that indoors.

“All the evidence show that the probability if higher of transmitting the infection when in enclosed or indoor areas,” she explained in Filipino. “As of now, that’s something that the DOH could not recommend.”

Vergeire “highly encouraged” vulnerable individuals to wear a face mask — meaning those still not vaccinated against COVID-19, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals.

Even outdoors, she warned, taking off your mask would only be advisable in low-risk setting with low-risk individuals.

She said the government should not rush into easing restrictions that protect the public from COVID-19.

These restrictions had prevented a lot of deaths due to COVID-19, she stressed.

“So what we’re saying is that we go slow. We’re closely studying the issue. Everything that we will implement will be based on science, will be based on evidence. And the ultimate goal is for us to protect the health of our Filipino people,” Vergeire said.

“So we do this in phases. I hope we will help each other,” she added.

Meanwhile, she said: “[Wearing a] mask will always be our default. Our responsibility to ourselves, as well as to our family and our community, is to always assess [the situation] — meaning, if we know that the risk [of infection] is high, let’s wear it

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