The Philippines ends its mandate for masks outdoors

MANILA, Philippines — President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr approved a recommendation to end the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors across the country more than two years after it was imposed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, top officials said Wednesday.

The Philippines and Myanmar are the last countries in Southeast Asia that still require masks to be worn outdoors, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said, adding that the change in the country’s masking policy would take effect after Marcos Jr. issued an executive order an order.

A study showed that removing the mandatory requirement in other countries did not lead to an alarming spike in infections when people continued to take precautions, he said.

Abalos urged people to continue to keep their distance and wash their hands, and urged the elderly and people suffering from other illnesses to continue to wear a mask outdoors.

Read more: “Medical populism” has defined the Philippines’ response to COVID-19. That is why the country is still suffering

Rosario Vergueire, a top health official, said a state body dealing with the pandemic would assess whether the mandatory wearing of masks indoors could be lifted by the end of the year in public places, which could significantly increase the number of people who will receive their coronavirus booster shots.

The government’s move came after Mayor Michael Rama of the central city of Cebu declared the wearing of masks outdoors voluntary in a trial period ending at the end of the year.

Among the hardest-hit by coronavirus outbreaks in Southeast Asia, the Philippines imposed one of the the longest lockouts in the world, causing its worst economic recession in decades and deepening poverty, hunger and unemployment.

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