MANILA - Face masks will still be required as government prepares to transition into the new normal, the Department of Health said Friday.
The public will need to retain self-regulation if Alert Level 1 or the new normal will be imposed as maximum capacity for indoor and outdoor areas and public transportation will be removed, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
"Naghahanda tayo para dito sa sinasabi nating new normal. Ang Alert Level 1 po ito po ang new normal natin sa ating bansa. Kailangan ma-enable natin ang environment natin bago palagakin ang ating kababayan sa ganitong sitwasyon," she said when asked if establishments and hospitals were ready for Alert Level 1.
(We're preparing for what we call the new normal. Alert Level 1 is the new normal in our country. We need to enable our environment before we allow the public to go out in this situation.)
"What would be retained would be our self-regulation, we'll still follow minimum public health standards...Tayo po ay naghahanda (We are preparing) so we can enable these environment to be safe spaces for our citizens."
Safety seals and high vaccination rate are among the requirements to be considered for an area to de-escalate to Alert Level 1, Vergeire said.
The new normal can only be sustained if the public self-regulates and continues to adhere to minimum health protocols such as proper wearing of face masks, observance of physical distancing and ventilation, Vergeire added.
"I think safeguards should still be there kung magkakaroon man tayo ng (if we implement) transition and easing of restrictions, I think the mask mandate will be the last to go because it will protect each and one of us kung saka-sakali not just from COVID-19 but from other respiratory infections also," she said.
COVID-19 can be declared as endemic in the Philippines if cases are "stable" and "predictable," Vergeire said.
"Kung ang mataas na pagbabakuna natin na manageable, predictable, stable na ang ating mga kaso sa bansa. Hindi pa ho natin nakikita yan. Ang ating mga kaso di pa natin matatawag na stable yan," she said.
(We can say it's endemic if we have high vaccination rate that cases are manageable, predictable, stable. We haven't achieved that. We cannot say cases are stable.)
"Nothing is certain at this point, di natin alam kailan magkakaroon ulit ng pagtaas ng kaso, kung may bagong variant darating. Ang ginagawa po ng gobyerno natin ngayon...nagta-transition po tayo pinaghahandaan po natin. We are now having this transition and planning ano ba dapat ang new normal sa ating bansa."
(Nothing is certain at this point, we don't know when cases will increase again, if a new variant will arrive. What government is doing right now...we're transitioning, we're preparing. We are now having this transition and planning what should be the new normal.)
All regions in the country are at low to moderate risk for COVID-19 cases except Soccksargen, Vergeire said.