Masks off by end of 2022? Infectious diseases specialist weighs in

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2022 11:23 AM | Updated as of Feb 17 2022 11:55 AM

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MANILA – Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez on Wednesday said the wearing of face masks may no longer be mandatory in the last 3 months of 2022.

An infectious diseases expert, however, said many factors need to be taken into consideration before that decision can be made.

Speaking on ANC’s “Rundown,” Dr. Rontgene Solante said more people need to be vaccinated before mask mandates can be lifted.

“Number one is the population immunity. If we will be able to vaccinate more people and I think 90 percent, or even 100 percent of the eligible population then we can have more or less an idea there that we have built an immunity,” he said.

“Second is that of course, there will be no variants of concern that will emerge during the time.”

“My only reservations there is that when we will be in December and if still we have an omicron variant, a certain part of the population will also have their waning immunity during the time. If you are given the booster this part of the year, 4-6 months after, then the chances of another possible surge will be there because of that waning immunity,” he noted. 

“So if ever there will really be a significant drop in the cases, by that time and a lot of people will already be vaccinated, I still want to protect specific population that will continue to wear the mask, and these are the vulnerable population and those who are immunocompromised,” Solante stressed.

“Because you know what? Even if they will be vaccinated, their risk of getting the infection even if it’s mild, they can have a more severe form of the COVID,” he said.

The doctor stressed that lifting mask mandates may cause an uptick of COVID-19 cases in areas where a lot of people are not vaccinated.

“Moving forward with that particular suggestion, we need to look at the scenario and take a closer look on who should be wearing the mask and who should be protected, prioritized to be protected, if ever there will still be cases,” he said.

The doctor said mask mandates should be the last to go, even though COVID-19 quarantine restrictions are loosened. 

“We can transition to a lower alert level or we can take out the alert level system as long as cases are really stable…as long as there will be no more community transmission that really can cause spikes and surge of these cases.”

“But again I think the mask mandate will be really a long way to go, that I still suggest it should be there,” he said.

--ANC, 17 February 2022