MANILA — The optional use of face mask in open spaces will be implemented "soon" after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signs the policy, the country's top health official said Friday.
Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire disclosed the government's pandemic task force met with the chief executive on Thursday to thrash out details of the executive order.
"As to timelines, he instructed that as soon as the Office of the President can prepare the executive order, with all of the specific provisions included, ipapalabas nila at magpapatupad na tayo (they will release and we will implement)," she said in a press briefing.
"It's going to happen soon," Vergeire also told One News on Thursday.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended lifting the outdoor mask mandate some 2 years into the pandemic.
While the DOH prefers to keep masking mandatory, the government has to balance between health and economy, it said.
The agency said the compromise was that the voluntary use of mask would be implemented only among low-risk individuals and in low-risk settings.
Optional masking will only be done outdoors, in settings where it is not crowded, and in settings where there is good ventilation, the DOH said.
The public is still required to wear masks in public transportation, Vergeire said.
The relaxed mask use also exempts the elderly, those with comorbidities, children, and those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Vergeire called on the public to get their booster shots to protect themselves from the virus.
As of Sept. 8, some 18.4 million have received their first booster dose while around 2.4 million have gotten their second shot.
In total, about 72.7 Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.