Optional wearing of face masks indoor hailed

October 31, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 346 views

CAMARINES Sur Representative and National Unity Party (NUP) president LRay Villafuerte said over the weekend the prompt issuance of a Malacañang directive to officially lift mandatory masking even indoors “accelerates our country’s adaptation to the ‘new normal’ and sends a loud message” to the world that it has “opened wide its doors” to tourists and investors.

“With President Marcos’ prompt issuance of EO (Executive Order) No. 7, we are sending a loud message to the world that we have marched on from the almost three-year pandemic and that we have at last opened wide our doors to tourists and investors alike as a way to speed up our economy’s return to its pre-Covid high upward trajectory,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte issued this statement following the President’s issuance last October 28 of EO No. 7 making wearing of face masks “voluntary” in both indoor and outdoor settings, just days after Mr. Marcos approved the recommendation by the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on mandatory masking that had been enforced nationwide since March 2020.

At the same time, Villafuerte said the Department of Education (DepEd) is helping President Marcos return the country to post-pandemic normalcy with last Thursday’s announcement by Vice President and Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio that the DepEd is going ahead on its plan to make in-person classes mandatory in public schools beginning this week.

The Vice President said the DepEd would “push through” with full face-to-face classes in public schools beginning Nov. 2, while giving private institutions the option to carry out in-person teaching or a combination of face-to-face, blended or online learning.

Villafuerte likewise called on the public to heed the President’s appeal in EO 7 for people to continue observing minimum public health standards (MPHS) such as hand-washing, physical distancing, and maintenance of good ventilation, particularly indoors, to prevent COVID-19 infection.

A three-term Camarines Sur governor before his election to the House, Villafuerte also made an appeal to local executives to fully support EO 7 by ramping up their anti-coronavirus vaccination rollouts and complying with the President’s order for local government units (LGUs) to submit to the Department of Health (DOH) regular updates on the progress of their respective regular and booster shot programs.

In the EO signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, the President said: “A policy of voluntary wearing of face masks in both indoor and outdoor settings is a step towards normalization and a welcome development that would encourage activities and boost efforts toward the full reopening of the economy.”

Last September 12, the President issued EO No. 3 on the voluntary use of masks outdoors.

In EO 7 released last Oct. 28, meanwhile, Mr. Marcos said that masking will remain mandatory in healthcare facilities; medical transport vehicles; and air, land and sea public transportation.

The President, also in EO 7, encouraged face masks for senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women, and unvaccinated people.

Villafuerte, the head of the NUP that is the second biggest power bloc in the House of Representatives, called for the lifting of the outdoor masking rule in September as well as the voluntary indoor masking and, later, the removal of stringent entry requirements for inbound international travelers before President Marcos approved the consecutive IATF recommendation on the easing of such anti-COVID health protocols.