MANILA - Is it time to ease restrictions for Filipinos who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19?
OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco made the proposal, saying other countries such as the United States and South Korea have allowed those inoculated against COVID-19 not to wear face masks outdoors.
Israel has also rescinded its order to wear face mask outdoors but the requirement is applied for indoor public spaces.
"The government has to be ready to gradually relax minimum health standards as more and more Filipinos are vaccinated to do two things: to give us hope and to give an incentive to those who are hesitant," Austriaco told ANC's Headstart.
Infectious disease expert Eva Roxas earlier warned against lifting mask mandates for the fully vaccinated, noting that there are virus variants in the country.
In the interview, Austriaco said the group supports government's move to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination in Metro Manila and key economic hubs as these are the "hotbeds of COVID-19," Austriaco said.
"If we're able to control the pandemic in NCR, then other provinces they won’t be more of a risk because our viruses are feeding the surges that you're seeing elsewhere in the country," he said.
Mobile clinics and barangay-level COVID-19 vaccine information drives should also be launched to reach poor senior citizens, he added.
"Regardless of prioritizing whatever region in the Philippines, we need to vaccinate all our senior citizens," he said.
"Poor senior citizens are particularly hesitant so we have to reach out to them."
When asked if the elderly should be allowed to leave their homes, Austriaco said authorities should await studies on prevention of virus transmission after inoculation as only 2 mRNA vaccines have so far been proven effective.
"If (it) shows there’s no transmission, we should still allow seniors to leave, they might still have to wear a mask but at least they can leave their homes after 15 or 16 months," he said.
Government needs to conduct 500,000 daily inoculations in Metro Manila and the other key urban areas to achieve its target by November, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier said.
The country has administered 4,495,375 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Tuesday. Some 1,029,061 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated while 3,466,314 have received their first dose.