Carlito Galvez Jr. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Feb 18 (Mabuhay) — The wearing of face mask will remain mandatory until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday.

Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar, said there are no discussions yet regarding the dropping of the face mask policy as it would be the last policy to be lifted.

“Sa ngayon wala pa po kaming discussion sa ating pagtatanggal ng face mask, wala pa pong dini-discuss na ganoon. At ang sinasabi ko nga po sa ibang kasamahan natin sa media, talagang ang last na tatanggalin natin siguro yung mask kasi yun yung pinaka-last defense natin,” Galvez said.

(So far we have not discussed the dropping of the face mask policy. We have not discussed anything like that. As I’ve told the media, the last thing we will remove is the face mask because that is our last defense against COVID-19.)

“So ang rekomendasyon po namin talaga is hanggang hindi pa natatapos talaga ang pandemya at saka hindi po natin masasabing secured or totally eliminated na ang COVID-19 ay hindi po natin matatanggal yung face mask,” he added.

The vaccine czar earlier said the mandatory use of face masks would “most likely” be dropped by the fourth quarter of the year. In the dzBB interview, he said this is only if the pandemic becomes “very manageable” by that time.

COVID crisis ‘still there’

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier in the day said the Philippines is “not yet” seeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in general.

“We’re over with the Omicron, but not the COVID-19,” he told GMA News Online by phone.

“We’re not out of the COVID crisis. The COVID crisis is still there.”

Duque had likewise said he is not in favor of the lifting of the face mask policy anytime soon.

“Hindi ako naniniwala na malapit na ang panahon [na tanggalin ang face mask policy] kasi lalo na meron tayong campaign rallies. Lalo pa natin dapat pag-igtingin ang pagsunod sa minimum health standards,” Duque said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire echoed Duque, saying that for the medical standpoint, health experts see that the face masks will be the last to go as it also protects the people from other diseases apart from COVID-19.

Amid the decrease in COVID-19 infections in the past few days, government officials are already studying the possibility of downgrading the alert level in the National Capital Region (NCR) — the country’s main economic hub — to Alert Level 1.

Under Alert Level 1, all establishments, persons, or activities — except in areas under granular lockdowns — are allowed to operate, work, or be undertaken at full on-site or venue/seating capacity provided minimum health standards were followed.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday reported 2,671 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the country’s total tally to 3,644,597. (MNS)

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