Constituent policy

DoH chief meets with IATF on mask policy

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (DoH) Officer in Charge (OIC) Maria Rosario Vergeire met with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to discuss the mask policy they will recommend to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

This is in line with the development of Cebu City which has pushed against the mandatory use of face masks.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Vergeire said masks provide 70-80% protection against Covid-19, as well as other respiratory illnesses such as flu and pneumonia.

Vergeire said they would send the IATF recommendation to the president. His decision will be officially announced by the press secretary’s office.

“There are conditions that must be met for us to be able to relax our restrictions. We are one with all the national government agencies that we want to reach a point where we can somehow relax more the restrictions because we would like our citizens to experience the normal that we once knew,” the health official said.

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She also noted that Covid-19 is here to stay.

Vergeire said the easing of restrictions should be done in a gradual way to reach a compromise between national government agencies and balance health and the economy.

Additionally, she emphasized that the transmission of Covid-19 has nothing to do with weather conditions.

However, colder weather conditions may increase the vulnerability of the population, which could lead to cases of coughs, colds and flu, which are symptoms of Covid-19.

“If the symptoms they are feeling are the same with Covid-19, community surveillance should be very robust and dynamic to detect who among community members has Covid-19 and who among them just has the flu,” a- she declared.

She informed the public that following the health protocols of wearing face masks and vaccinating against Covid-19 is important against the transmission of the virus and serious infections.

In a related development, Camarines Sur Representative Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte on Monday urged health officials to quickly make a decision on whether to lift the government’s requirement to wear face masks.

He suggested this in a bid to help the country adjust to the new normal and mitigate the economic damage caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Villafuerte said if health officials insist on maintaining the requirement to wear masks as health policy in light of the current pandemic, the government could also consider providing free masks to low-income families and poor.

“We had the strictest and longest shutdowns, which is an overly strict policy that made the Philippines one of the last economies in the region to recover from the pandemic,” Villafuerte said.

As he supported the initiative of the Cebu City government to eliminate the requirement to wear a mask in public spaces, he suggested a more relaxed policy.

He strongly recommends that Malacañang adopt a compromise policy that would keep face masks required only in Metro Manila and other high-workload locations.

However, local government units in low-risk areas elsewhere in the country could expand this requirement or remove it, and allow their respective constituents to wear masks in public only on a voluntary basis.

“For example, in CamSur, where the infection rate has been relatively low compared to those in other places, the provincial government will lift the mandatory use as soon as the health authorities decide to relax this protocol,” he said. -he adds.

Villafuerte quoted Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health as saying that wearing face masks is now optional due to the improving Covid-19 situation.

But people over 60, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions should continue to do so as long as they are with other people.

A similar directive has also been put in place in Singapore.