MANILA - The Department of Health said Friday it was looking into a recommendation to allow fully vaccinated individuals to go out without face masks in "specific bubbles" in a step towards normality.
"Tayo po ay nag-aaral na nitong sinasabing rekomendasyon na ito para makita natin (We are studying this recommendation to see) if we can also apply this in specific bubbles," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a news briefing.
She said this in response to the remark of Fr. Nicanor Austriaco of OCTA Research Group that the government had to be prepared to ease health protocols as more Filipinos get inoculated.
"In the United States, we are returning to normal. We have not yet attained herd immunity and yet the masking requirements have been lifted," the Filipino priest-scientist told ANC Thursday.
"I encourage the government over the next few months to explore possible ways to begin to relax minimum health standards for those fully vaccinated so that they will show on Facebook and in social media that we are going back to normal and that everyone has a role to play in this," Austriaco added.
However, Vergeire noted that the country's vaccination rate is a far cry from the United States.
As of Wednesday, the US has administered more than 289 million doses of COVID-19 jabs, of which over 131 million were fully vaccinated.
"Kung sa Estados Unidos po ay nagkaroon sila ng polisiya na puwede nang hindi mag-mask kapag nasa labas, tayo po dito, hindi pa rin po natin ‘yan makonsidera kasi ‘yong rate ng vaccination natin, hindi naman pareho doon sa Estados Unidos,” she said.
(If the United States has a policy allowing people to go maskless, we can't consider it here because our vaccination rate is not up to the level of the United States.)
The health official also noted that several regions in the country have reported increasing COVID-19 cases.
In March, the US government said fully vaccinated individuals could gather indoors unmasked, as US states were moving to reopen schools and businesses amid a drop in cases.
Starting July, masks will also be no longer required outdoors in South Korea for those who have received at least 1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated at least 1 million people or 1.77 percent from its target.