THE face mask mandate would likely be lifted if the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the Philippines dropped to less than 200 in the next three months, an expert in infectious diseases said Wednesday.
But Dr. Rontgene Solante still stressed the importance of face mask in preventing the spread of COVID-19, especially the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Solante was asked to comment on the possibility of lifting mandatory face mask policy anytime soon, considering that cases in South Korea continued to decrease even after it lifted the outdoor mask mandate.
“And we experienced that we quickly controlled the Omicron because of the way we wear the face mask,” Solante said at the Laging Handa briefing.
“Let’s see in the next two to three months if the case really continues to drop – like less than two hundred-most likely we won’t need a face mask [mandate],” he added.
The Philippines has logged a total of 3,687,320 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 60,439 have died and 3,638 remain active.
Solante also said they received reports that some individuals removed their face masks. Others had to wait inside rooms without proper ventilation due to problems with vote-counting machines during the voting period, he said.
Solante said the effect of the activities during election day might be reflected in the country’s COVID-19 numbers starting next week as the incubation period is usually from three to five days.
“If the exposure is high on May 9, let’s count about… five to seven days. So that will reflect, most likely next week,” Solante said.
Solante also warned against the entry of the BA.4 and the BA.5 Omicron sub-variants, which were linked to the spread of cases in South Africa, and the BA.2.12.1.
“We’re okay after two weeks, then hopefully, (we could) continue… But we continue to be vigilant in our health protocol and vaccination,” he said.
“Based on data, when you have a first booster or third dose, we have a good chance of protection even with these sub-variants, especially against severe diseases,” Solante added.
The Department of Health has said that the sub-variants “should not be any cause of concern.”
On the other hand, Solante said the challenge for the next administration would be to continue the Duterte administration’s
COVID-19 response. He also urged the next administration to prepare for the next pandemic.
In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the next administration would already have a “playbook” on how to deal with the pandemic.
“The next administration will benefit because it seems that there is already a playbook left. Number two, we already have many policies, our issuances of decisions, our policies of more than 200,” he said.
Duque said the current administration would pass on the most effective solutions such as the health protocols and the prevent, detect, isolate, treat, reintegrate, and vaccination strategies.
The Department of Health has said the sub-variants “should not be any cause of concern.”
On the other hand, Solante said the challenge for the next administration was to continue the Duterte administration’s COVID-19
Meanwhile, the Department of Health reported Tuesday 127 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the nationwide caseload to 3,687,320.
Based on the DOH’s latest data, the country’s active cases stood at 3,638, the lowest reported so far this year.
A total 3,623,243 people have been counted as recoveries, while the death toll remained at 60,439, the DOH said.
The regions with the greatest number of new cases in the past two weeks were the National Capital Region with 946 infections, Region 4-A with 304, and Region 3 with 237.
The DOH said 12,066 individuals were tested, with 297 testing laboratories submitting data on May 9.
The bed occupancy rate in the country was 14.9 percent, with 4,694 beds occupied and 26,740 vacant.