Conditional masking can cause a spike in cases – expert

An infectious disease expert expects a possible rise in the number of Covid-19 cases as the country implements the lifting of masks in outdoor areas.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Monday signed Executive Order (EO) 3 that authorizes the non-wearing of masks in open spaces and in so-called low-risk environments among people deemed “low-risk.”

In a Tuesday briefing, infectious disease expert Dr Edsel Maurice Salvana said any relaxation of public health standards would lead to a possible increase in cases.

He also said the new mandate was just an “extension” of the current policy allowing masks not to be worn in settings such as meals, exercise and sports.

Salvana added that the mask policy is a way for the country to adapt to the new normal, but in a more careful way.

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“We’re going to see how that will affect the number of cases…but we’re open to the possibility of cases going up, but we’re also leaning on our vaccination rate that if there’s an increase in the number of severe cases it won’t. not overburden the health care system,” he said.

According to him, protection against severe cases of Covid-19 remains high in people at low risk of contracting the disease, but notes that protection decreases in older and high-risk people who have not yet received their dose of the disease. reminder.

Salvana said he expects the effect of the new policy within two to four weeks, which is equivalent to the incubation time for the Covid-19 virus.

The health officer in charge, Maria Rosario Vergeire, said the country had fully vaccinated 93.2% of its target population, which is the basis of comment by press officer Rose Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz- Angeles that the Philippines is close to hitting the “immunity wall”. “

“But we also know that our immunity is decreasing and with this immunity we have to have the first boosters,” Vergeire said during a briefing also on Tuesday.

She added that the chief executive and the Department of Health (DoH) now aim to reach 30% of the target population for booster shots by the end of the president’s first 100 days in office.

The target is now below the 50% target set on July 27, 2022.

“There is an agreement with government agencies that we will improve our booster coverage to at least 30% by October 8, and then gradually increase coverage until we reach 50-70% by the end of the year,” Vergeire said. .

Meanwhile, OCTA fellow and microbiologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco has urged the government to scrap the mask mandate in schools because they “hurt children” and could harm children’s language development.

He cited an article by CNN medical analyst Dr Leana Wen, who said her four-year-old son had been ‘hurt’ by the continued mask mandates by suffering from developmental delays and harmed his development linguistic.

“Our children have been suffering for two years. They have resumed mask-to-mask education, and we have to move from mask-to-mask to real face-to-face”. [learning] for our children,” Austriaco said.

He added that the country should “move as quickly as possible” to removing masks inside and outside of schools.

“They are hurt by the continuous wearing of our masks, so I urge the whole country to get vaccinated and reinforced as soon as possible,” Austriaco said.

Vergeire said that masking protects children from the virus, especially since the number of children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated against Covid-19 is still below 50%.

“The DoH recommends that even if we make masking optional, we should encourage parents to mask their children. These are mere sacrifices to further protect our children,” she added.

In the same forum, OCTA founder Ranjit Rye also urged the government to take a “phased approach” to mask removal while implementing “triggers” where masks can be reused outdoors. in the event of a power surge.

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