Scrapping COVID-19 mask rule possible, but should not be soon: expert

Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2022 03:41 PM

Commuters try to catch a ride at a bus stop along EDSA in Quezon City on Aug. 4, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Commuters try to catch a ride at a bus stop along EDSA in Quezon City on Aug. 4, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The Philippines should wait a little more before lifting the requirement to wear COVID-19 face masks in public spaces, despite the relatively low numbers of new coronavirus infections, an expert said. 

OCTA Research Fellow Dr. Guido David cited as an example New York City in the US, where an uptick in COVID-19 cases followed the scrapping of the mask mandate. 

“Sa New York, inalis na ang face mask tapos nagkaroon sila ng BA.2.12.1 [subvariant] na meron na rin dito ngayon, binalik ang face mask. So mahirap naman yung alis, balik, tapos maiinis ang mga tao,” he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo on Tuesday.

(Face masks were removed in New York and then they had BA.2.12.1--which has also reached us. They again required face masks. It's difficult if we remove then re-implement the policy, people might get annoyed.)

But should numbers continue to remain low in the coming months, removing face masks outdoors may be possible, he said. 

“Pagpasok ng bagong administrasyon, baka pwedeng pagusapan, i-relax ang use of face masks outdoors muna then tsaka na 'yung indoors," David said.

(Perhaps the removal of face masks outdoors, and then later on indoors, can be discussed under the new administration.)

David also said it was premature to consider the country “out of the woods” and would in fact be better to wait a little more while before the easing of other health measures is considered.

He said the situation might return to normal if variants that emerge after omicron are not as transmissible. But he said it would not come as a surprise if the virus re-emerges in the future.

“Kung ganon ang mangyari, I suspect na every 8 to 9 years may lumalabas na bagong mutation, so I won’t be surprised na itong SARS-COV-2 baka bumalik in a different form mga 10 years from now kaya maganda na handa tayo in the future,” said David. 

(If that will happen, I suspect that every 8 to 9 years there will be a new mutation, so I won’t be surprised if this SARS-COV-2 comes back in a different form 10 years from now. We should be prepared for the future.)

Globally, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline. But the World Health Organization urged the public to treat these figures with caution due to a significantly reduced number of testing in many countries.

“The pandemic is not over. We continue to call on all countries to maintain testing and sequencing services, to give us a clearer picture of where the virus is spreading, and how it’s changing,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.