Philippines lifts mandate on wearing masks outdoors

·2 min read

Get ready to see people’s smiling faces out on the street once more. President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr just signed Executive Order 3 that makes wearing masks outdoors optional, effective immediately.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles confirmed today that the president had signed the executive order, days after Marcos Jr approved a recommendation by the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases to end the mandate on wearing masks outdoors, over two years after the rule was implemented at the height of the pandemic.

Immunocompromised individuals, senior citizens, and those who are not fully vaccinated are “strongly encouraged” to keep their masks on, Angeles said.

The press secretary also confirmed that face masks will continue to be required in indoor, private, or public establishments. This covers land, air, and sea transportation, as well as outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Benhur Abalos previously said that the change in the country’s mask policy would only take effect once the president signed the executive order.

Abalos also cited a study that showed lifting the mask-on requirement in other countries has not led to a dramatic surge in infections, provided that people continue to take other precautions.

Yet not everyone seems convinced that this is the right course of action. On Twitter, netizens pointed out that this is a major decision to make before the Marcos Jr administration has appointedd a Department of Health (DOH) secretary, two months into his presidency.

“Shouldn’t we be strengthening our vaccination drives and make sure testing is accessible to everyone? We can’t implement this without the safety net of vaccines and testing,” one commented.

Others pointed out that the decision seems ill-timed, considering the country is experiencing an uptick in cases. Last week, the DOH confirmed it had logged over 17,000 cases from August 29 to September 4.

“Cases are steadily rising, great time to loosen the mask mandate,” a user sarcastically said.

DOH officer-in-charge Rosario Vergeire said the government was also assessing if the mandatory wearing of masks indoors in public areas could be lifted towards the end of the year.