Move to lift mask mandates 'premature': ex-gov't adviser


Posted at Sep 08 2022 10:38 AM | Updated as of Sep 08 2022 10:50 AM

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MANILA – Government’s move to recommend the lifting of face mask mandates is “premature,” one of its former advisers said Thursday. 

Dr. Tony Leachon, who previously advised the National Task Force Against COVID-19, noted that only a few Filipinos have received their boosters against the coronavirus disease.

“Looking at the numbers right now, we have a booster rate of only around 18 percent or 18 million, and we have primary vaccines about 72 million,” he said.

“I think we’re the lowest in Asia, Southeast Asia in terms of booster rate, while the rest which have opened the economy have 90 percent vaccination and around 80 percent in terms of the booster rate,” he told ANC’s “Rundown.”

Leachon also noted that the country’s COVID-19 positivity rate is still at 11.6 percent—higher than the World Health Organization’s 5 percent benchmark. 

“The numbers right now in terms of viral transmission are not actually controlled,” he said. 

Leachon said both the booster and positivity rates must be considered before lifting mask mandates in particular areas. 

“I think you need a minimum of around 50 percent to consider lifting the face mask mandate in the outdoors and it’s quite difficult to make a decision if the decision will be fragmented, considering we’re an archipelago region.”

“And of course travels will actually be crisscrossing from site to another, and of course the viral transmission will not be controlled in this particular setting,” he said.

For his part, infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said the lifting of mask mandates must be done gradually around the country. 

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He agrees with Leachon that it’s “not time yet” to lift mask mandates.

“We still need to carefully study this part of the policy. If this will be implemented, I think it’s too early, not time yet. And, isa sa mga (one of the) possible suggestions, if they will implement this, they can implement starting in (local government units) with a very low number of cases,” he said.