Health workers oppose optional use of mask indoors


Posted at Oct 26 2022 04:24 PM | Updated as of Oct 26 2022 04:51 PM

Children spend time with their families at an amusement arcade inside a mall in Mandaluyong City on March 5, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Children spend time with their families at an amusement arcade inside a mall in Mandaluyong City on March 5, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A group of health workers is against the government's plan to make the use of face mask in indoor settings optional.

Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza cautioned against further relaxing protocols given the threat of highly transmissible and more immune-evasive omicron subvariants.

"Tutol tayo diyan, 'yung optional na pagtanggal ng mask sa indoor, dahil alam natin may mga bagong variant ng omicron," he told ANC's "Headstart" Wednesday.

(We are against that, the optional removal of masks indoors, because we know that there are new omicron subvariants.)

Mendoza cited the local transmission of XBB subvariant and XBC variant in the country.

The XBC, a recombinant of the omicron BA.2 and delta (B.1.617.2) variant, has claimed 5 lives so far, he added.

"Sa amin, hindi padalos-dalos sana ang ating pagsasabi ng ganiyan dahil alam natin kung meron lang free mass testing, siguro hindi lang ito ang datos na nakukuha natin," Mendoza said.

(For us, we shouldn't be too hasty in saying that because we know that if free mass testing were available, these wouldn't be the only data we have.)

For the group, the Philippines should not be compared to other countries that have loosened their COVID-19 protocols.

"Dito kasi sa 'tin, once magkaroon na naman ng surge, imagine 'yung last time, 'yung last year, 'yung talagang dumami, hirap na hirap 'yung ating health workers, pagod na pagod dahil kulang ang ating manpower," Mendoza said.

(In our country, once a surge happens, imagine last time, when cases spiked, our health workers suffer because they are exhausted and our manpower is insufficient.)

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The country is planning to lift the mandatory wearing of face masks in indoor spaces, Tourism Secretary Cristina Frasco revealed Tuesday.

“The overarching direction of the Marcos administration is to allow our country to convey an openness and readiness to the world, to receive tourists and investments so that we could give our fellow Filipinos an opportunity to regain all the livelihood and losses that were incurred during the pandemic,” she said in a press briefing.

Unvaccinated individuals, persons with comorbidities and older people are still "highly encouraged" to wear masks, Frasco said.

Since the pandemic began, the country has recorded 3.99 million COVID-19 infections, of which 21,924 were considered active cases as of Tuesday. The tally includes 63,846 fatalities. 

Around 73.49 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the virus, of whom close to 20.5 million have received their booster.