DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Sep) – While he is amenable to the idea of easing the strict face mask policy in outdoor spaces, Mayor Sebastian Duterte said the local government of Davao would only adopt the “optional” wearing of face masks if there is proof that it could not cause a spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.
During his program “Special Hour with Mayor Sebastian Duterte” on Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Friday, Duterte said that he would rather wait and see if this would work out in other local government units before he would implement it in the city.
Duterte was reacting to the pronouncement of Malacañang last September 7 that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) recommended making the wearing of face masks outdoors “voluntary” nationwide.
But he said that City Health Office (CHO) head, Dr. Ashley Lopez, recommended keeping the existing local policy on the mandatory wearing of face masks in public until the end of this year.
City Ordinance No. 0307-20, passed on July 23, 2020, provides that any person “caught not wearing a face mask in public places shall be penalized with a fine of P500 for the first offense; P2,000 for the second offense; and P5,000 or one-month imprisonment for the third offense.”
Duterte said he would rather keep the order of wearing face masks outdoors until December. “I want to see what will happen to the provinces, municipalities, and cities that will apply the optional wearing of face masks,” he said in the vernacular.
He added that the local government will apply the optional wearing of masks if it could not anymore endanger the safety of the Dabawenyos, considering that the threat of COVID-19 remains.
“If we see that it turns out ok for them, then we’ll follow. I don’t want us to initiate it first because the problem of COVID is really tiresome,” Duterte said.
The mayor said he does not want the city to grapple with another COVID-19 surge, which has already encumbered Davao for more than two years.
Duterte said he does not want to enforce a policy that would cost the lives of Dabawenyos.
“Let’s just wait until December, or maybe even before December. Let’s look at the data from other places. If it’s ok, then we will make it optional,” he said.
Last September 2, Duterte said the local government would have to wait for a directive from the national government on the face mask policy.
In a press briefing, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said that the optional wearing of face masks will be allowed in “open spaces or non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation,” but senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals are highly encouraged to continue wearing masks.
She said that the government would pilot the lifting of mandatory policy towards the last quarter of 2022, provided there is an improvement in the COVID-19 booster vaccination coverage.
Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer-in-charge of the Department of Health, added that the IATF recommendation was “verbally approved” by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who will issue an executive order regarding the policy. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)