‘Mas ligtas’: DOH reminds masking is still safer outdoors after IATF proposal

September 9, 2022 - 1:46 PM
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Jeep passengers
People wearing face masks as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ride on a jeepney, in Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2022. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

The health department on Wednesday stressed that wearing face masks outside is still safer.

The reminder was issued the same day the Palace bared that the government’s pandemic task force has proposed to ease the country’s face mask policy.

“‘MAS LIGTAS ANG NAKA-MASK’,” the Department of Health said in a social media post.

“BASAHIN: Narito ang mga pangunahing dahilan kung bakit mas mainam pa rin ang pagsusuot ng face mask kahit tayo ay nasa labas,” it added.

“Dahil sa mataas na antas na proteksyong naibibigay ng pagsusuot ng mask, naging bahagi na ito ng adhikain ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan, na ayon sa mga masusing pag-aaral at payo ng mga eksperto,” the DOH continued.

It shared a series of infographics that enumerated reasons why it still recommends the use of face masks outdoors:

COVID-19 situation is still dangerous to seniors and immunocompromised

The health agency said that many Filipinos who belong to this population have weak immune systems or are more vulnerable to sickness.

“Ang ilan ay kasama pang naninirahan sa tahanan kaya delikadong mahawa sa COVID-19,” the DOH added.

There are people with symptoms such as cough and colds 

Although it cannot be determined if the symptomatic person has COVID-19, the DOH said it is still better to wear a mask since it signifies respecting the health and welfare of others.

It added that there are lots of sicknesses that can be prevented by mask-wearing, not just the viral disease itself.

These include the common cold and influenza, which are spread through droplets that can be inhaled.

Apart from COVID-19, there is also the threat of monkeypox in the country.

Masking serves as a good example to the young ones

The DOH said that the young ones can easier understand how face masks protect them from illnesses if they are able to see the adults wear one.

It has become a habit and there are still people in favor of it

The agency said that masking has become customary during these times, adding that there are people who have become comfortable wearing masks outside their homes.

“Hindi masama ang mag-ingat,” it added.

The DOH issued the reminder after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Wednesday bared its proposal to ease face mask use outdoors.

According to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, it is still not a policy, although it was already verbally approved by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. However, he has yet to release an executive order about the mask policy.

Under the proposal, Vergeire said that “low-risk individuals” in “low-risk settings” may voluntarily remove their face masks outdoors by the last quarter of the year, provided there is an improvement in the COVID-19 booster vaccination coverage.

“Ni-liberalize natin ‘yung paggamit ng masks sa outdoors pero doon sa low-risk individuals and in low-risk settings, meaning hindi sila matanda, hindi sila immunocompromised. And low-risk setting, ibig sabihin, doon sa mga area na hindi matao at saka maayos po ang daloy ng hanging,” she said in a press briefing.

Experts from the global community said that while catching COVID-19 is less likely outdoors, there are still risks involved, depending on several factors.

A National Geographic report in 2021, citing an epidemiologist, noted: “The closer people are, the more droplets an activity is generating, and the longer people are close to one another, the more the risk increases and the more important a mask becomes.”

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