Manila — Facemasks indoors will now be voluntary. This will be the next executive order to be taken by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. as relayed by Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, on 25th October 2022.
She emphasized that facemasks will still be required when in public transportation, medical transportation, and medical facilities. Do note that there are exceptions to this namely: face-mask wearing will be highly recommended for unvaccinated individuals, persons with comorbidities, and senior citizens.
The ensuing decision was the result of a Cabinet meeting held earlier Tuesday morning when the conditions of the executive order were recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
Frasco added, “Generally the direction of the Marcos admin is to lift the remainder of travel restrictions of the Philippines which includes easing mask mandates to allow our country to be at par with ASEAN neighbors who long liberalized their mask mandates. She also digressed that the XBB Omicron subvariant and the XBC variant are “not the very first variants” of the pandemic and that the Department of Health (DOH) has been “very aggressive in vaccination campaigns.”
This was in reply to queries if the move to have face-mask wearing only voluntary indoors despite detection and documented local transmission of the “highly immune-evasive” XBB Omicron subvariant and XBC variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus — which can cause serious respiratory illness COVID-19.
Frasco digressed that the recommendation of IATF to lift mandatory mask-wearing indoors was, “extensively discussed” at a separate meeting of IATF with other Cabinet members the week prior.
As of this writing, Frasco did not mention when Marcos will sign the new EO allowing the voluntary use of face masks in indoor settings.
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Economic benefits of the pending EO
“Loosening the mask mandate and regulations on the entry of tourists will help generate economic activities, foremost among them is providing jobs to our people,” expressed Senator Grace Poe, “We must build on the gains of the past in the fight against Covid-19 until we cross the finish line in this health crisis.” Her statement was also released that Tuesday. She showed support for this move by the Palace as a path forward for the country.
She also added that the public should still observe minimum health protocols citing frequent hand washing and maintaining good hygiene — in sync with the World Health Organization’s message seeing the pandemic ending soon.
No longer needed: RT-PCR test
Department of Tourism, Frasco further revealed that travelers no longer need to undergo a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test as a pre-departure requirement.
“It was also discussed that the remainder of stringent protocols, such as the pre-departure testing into the Philippines in the form of an RT-PCR would also be removed. In addition to this, as far as unvaccinated foreigners are concerned, they would henceforth be allowed entry to the Philippines, with only a requirement of presenting an antigen test 24 hours taken before departure or an option of taking an antigen test upon arrival into the Philippines.”
Brisk changes with eArrival card assigned ‘Special lanes”
An additional announcement was approved by President Bongbong Marcos and his Cabinet to give travelers an option to get their eArrival card upon their arrival in the country. Should they not have an eArrival card, “special lanes” will be given to provide streamlined processing.
Frasco digressed, “As agreed during the meeting, it was clarified that the filling out of the eArrival card would not be made mandatory as a prerequisite to boarding. In other words, you can fill out the eArrival card at your own convenience prior to departure or upon arrival. The overarching direction of the Maros administration is to allow our country to convey openness and readiness to the world to receive tourists and investments so that we would give our fellow Filipinos an opportunity to regain all the livelihood and losses that were incurred during the pandemic.”
From my vantage point, it’s still too early to let go of mask-wearing indoors. There should be more time allotted to see how the future variants of COVID-19 will affect the populace. This step forward can become a potentially huge leap backward if not enough caution is given to major decisions like these. What about your take on mask-wearing folks? Is it the right time to take things easier when it comes to preventive measures like mask-wearing? Comment down below, we consider your feedback, opinions and thoughts important.