Secretary Francisco Duque III (MNS Photo)

MANILA, June 23 (Mabuhay) –Outgoing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said he would recommend the extension of the mandatory face mask mandate as the country records a notable increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Well, kung ako tatanungin mo [if you ask me], I will recommend that it should be extended because there’s already an increasing number of cases,” Duque said.

Duque said aside from COVID-19, face masks can help prevent other illnesses such as influenza, bacterial pneumonia, monkeypox, and asthma.

“So dapat ipagpatuloy na lang dahil maraming value add naman ang masking. Hindi lang laban sa COVID-19. Maraming laban sa influenza, bacterial pneumonia, ang dami pang mga sakit,” he said.

Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases in the past few days, the country remains at low-risk classification with an average daily attack rate of less than 1 per 100,000 population, the Department of Health earlier said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said that the mandatory wearing of face masks will not be lifted until the end of his term on June 30.

Meanwhile, Duque, in the same interview, said he is hoping that the next administration will be more open to a policy mandating COVID-19 vaccination but with exceptions.

Duque reiterated that the increase in cases may be due to many people no longer complying with minimum health standards, not all qualified people taking booster shot, and the entrance of Omicron’s more transmissible subvariants.

He added this could also be due to the waning immunity of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Ang problema natin talaga is wala tayong [The problem is we don’t have a] vaccine mandate. I broached that idea but that was thumbed down by Congress,” Duque said.

“So we’ll see if next Congress might be more receptive to a possible policy… mandating vaccination but with clear exceptions. Hindi naman lahat talaga pwedeng bakunahan [not all people could be vaccinated],” he added.  (MNS)

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