The Philippine government is no longer mandating the use of masks outdoors due to a decline in COVID-19 cases, but social distancing and other public health measures will remain in place, government officials said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday approved an executive order to allow the voluntary wearing of masks outdoors, particularly in “open spaces and non-crowded areas with good ventilation,” press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.
Cruz-Angeles said that masks will still be required indoors and in public establishments, including in public transportation, and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
She said the policy will be reviewed to determine its impact on the country’s COVID-19 situation. The Philippines recorded 15,379 new cases from Sept. 5 to Sept. 11, down 10 percent from the previous week, The Manila Times reported.
“[We will continue adhering to] other minimum public health standards intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the country,” Cruz-Angeles was quoted as saying by state media.
The government is still pushing for the elderly, the immunocompromised, and anyone who is not vaccinated to wear masks.
The Philippines join other Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea in lifting their outdoor mask mandates. Malaysia and Singapore have allowed voluntary mask wearing indoors, except on public transportation.
Schools in the Philippines resumed in-person classes in August after more than two years of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. But temperature checks and limits on the number of students per classroom remain in place.
Students will be required to attend a combination of in-person classes and remote learning until November, when they’ll switch to fully in-person classes, according to the Education Ministry.
Local media reported that some schools had to split classes into morning and afternoon sessions at the start of the year to accommodate students while maintaining physical distancing due to classroom shortages.
Vice President Sara Duterte described the resumption of in-person classes as a “victory” for the nation’s education sector, as students across the Philippines were finally able to attend school like their peers around the world.
“We cannot make the lack of educational infrastructure or the inadequate number of classrooms in certain provinces another excuse to keep our children from schools,” she said.