With Alert Level 2 in place, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia announced that wearing face masks in selected areas in Cebu is no longer required.

In the fight against COVID-19, wearing a face mask is important, since it acts as a shield against the airborne disease itself. However, with more people being vaccinated, some countries like the US and Singapore no longer required their citizens to wear face masks.

Following suit (and the first in the Philippines to do so), Cebu City now doesn’t require the use of face masks—but only in selected areas. On Thursday, June 9, 2022, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) No. 16, which states that “the wearing of face masks shall be required only in closed and/or air-conditioned spaces. The use of face masks shall be optional in well-ventilated and open spaces.”

“Persons are highly encouraged to continue to wear their masks, especially in crowded outdoor areas. Persons who are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough or runny nose, are required to wear a mask at all times when they leave their homes,” the EO said.

The use of face masks was mandated by the Department of Health during the outbreak of the Sars-CoV-2 (now COVID-19) virus in 2020 and two years later, the mandate is still being implemented with the discovery of other variants and sub-variants like Omicron.

To Wear or Not to Wear?

The Cebu provincial government is the first one in the country to make the use of face masks optional. And when the Department of Health (DOH) was asked to comment on this, it reiterated that face masks, vaccinations, and compliance with public health standards have helped keep the pandemic under control.

“Scientific evidence supports the use of best-fitting face masks in reducing the transmission—not only of COVID-19 but also other infectious and respiratory diseases including Monkeypox, should it reach our country,” it explained in a statement.

The DOH further added that the protocols that were set by the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) state that face masks can only be removed outside when eating or during sports and other similar activities, provided that the venue is well-ventilated.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to be prevalent in Cebu province, Garcia said that the proper measures must be implemented for the new normal. In April 2021, she said that fining people who do not wear masks is “anti-poor.” Likewise, she ordered the police to provide free face masks to Cebuanos who aren’t wearing them that same year.

Currently, the province is under Alert Level 2—until June 15.

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