Infectious disease expert says lifting mandatory face mask policy ‘very dangerous’ – GMA News Online

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante on Tuesday said allowing the optional wearing of face masks outdoors may be very dangerous for the public, particularly the vulnerable population, as COVID-19 is still lingering and the booster uptake in the country is still low.

Solante made the remark after Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama earlier signed an executive order lifting the mandatory face mask policy in outdoor and open spaces in the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am not in favor of lifting or optional na lang ‘yung pagsuot ng masks sa outdoor for reasons like mababa pa rin ang booster population natin sa general public at pangalawa, nandito pa rin ang COVID na Omicron. Still we have the community transmission,” he said.

(I am not in favor of lifting or allowing the optional face masks use outdoors because our booster population is still low in the general public and the Omicron variant is still here. We have the COVID-19 community transmission.)

“Napaka-delikado ng mga hakbang when in fact, pinayagan na natin lahat ng tao in terms of makalabas na, mag-conduct na ng mga different activities,” he added.

(Such steps are very dangerous when in fact, we have already allowed everyone to go out and conduct different activities.)

Solante said that health protocols, particularly the wearing of face masks whether outdoors or indoors, should be the last to be removed in the country’s COVID-19 policies.

He, however, wished that the trial period of Cebu City government’s voluntary face mask policy until December 2022, will be successful and will not cause severe and critical diseases among the vulnerable population.

Solante also said that the National Capital Region (NCR) may follow suit but “not at this point in time in the pandemic” as the metrics in determining COVID-19 risk classifications in the country should still be considered.

He added that easing the face mask restrictions may result in more people foregoing their supposed booster inoculation because it may indicate that the coronavirus disease is already gone.

Based on DOH’s national COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, only 18.1 million of the 72.6 million fully vaccinated Filipinos have received the booster shots.

With this, Solante called on the local government units to coordinate with the Department of Health (DOH) and the local health experts before easing the mask mandate in their respective areas.

DOH officer-in-charge (OIC) Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said they were not consulted regarding the lifting of the mandatory face mask policy in Cebu City.

Vergeire also stressed there will be a higher risk of infections in an area if the safeguards against COVID-19 are not in place. — RSJ, GMA News

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