DOH not keen on requiring people to wear masks vs COVID-19 again

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
DOH not keen on requiring people to wear masks vs COVID-19 again
LRT passengers browse through their cellphones while commuting in Manila on March 13, 2023
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health on Tuesday said it is not considering the return of face mask rules even as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.

The department had argued against lifting the mask mandate in late 2022, saying it was too soon to do so even if cases were down. After President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. made wearing masks in public optional, it advised their use in schools to protect children from the virus.

"We are not considering the return of mask mandates," Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing.

Vergeire nonetheless encouraged Filipinos to wear masks in crowded areas and places with poor ventilation. The health official also advised masks for senior citizens and people with comorbidities.

The city government of Manila earlier said it may review its policy on the use of face masks indoors and outdoors after it observed a surge in COVID-19 infections.

The Philippines recorded 2,386 additional COVID-19 cases from April 10 to 16. The figure was 23% higher than the number of infections logged from April 3 to 9.

Nine out of 10 Filipinos approve the voluntary use of masks, but most of them continue to wear face covering outdoors, according to a survey released by Social Weather Stations last month. 

Positivity rate up

The COVID-19 positivity rate in the country increased to 7.6% from 6.9%. The World Health Organization recommends the proportion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive should remain below 5% to ensure the spread of the virus is under control.

Vergeire noted that the positivity rate should not be used as the sole indicator to evaluate the country’s COVID-19 situation as it can be affected by the number of people who get tested for the virus.

“What’s most important is that our hospitals are not seeing an increase in the number of severe and critical admissions,” she said.

The Philippines has confirmed over four million COVID-19 infections, including more than 66,000 deaths, since the pandemic began in early 2020.

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