THE Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has recommended to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. the optional wearing of face masks in open spaces across the country.In a joint press conference at the Malacañang on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the IATF recommended liberalizing the country’s face mask policy in “open, non-crowded and well-ventilated areas.”“Hindi pa po ito polisiya (this is not a policy yet),” she said.Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said transportation terminals and public utility vehicles are not included, noting the thick crowd in these areas.Vergeire said senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals are encouraged to still wear face masks when in public spaces, whether open or not.She said the recommendation of the IATF was based on the experiences of other countries that lifted their face mask rule as well as the level of Covid-19 vaccination in the country.Vergeire said Marcos verbally approved the recommendation, but he still has to issue an executive order that will indicate the effectivity.She said they are also studying the possibility of lifting the mandatory wearing of face masks indoors and it may be piloted toward the last quarter of the year provided that the booster vaccination will increase its coverage.“Ito pong indoor masking, pagaaralan pa. Gagawa tayo ng pagaaral so we can determine kung kakayanin na po ng healthcare natin ang pagli-lift ng indoor masking. Ito po ay gagawin in phases to make sure the population is protected,” said Vergeire.(The lifting of wearing masks indoors still needs to be studied. We will do a study so we can determine if our healthcare can handle it. This will be done in phases to make sure the population is protected.)Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos urged local government units (LGUs) to strengthen their booster vaccination to robust their population’s wall of immunity against Covid-19.The Department of Health (DOH) will conduct a National Booster Week from September 26 to 29 to further increase the coverage.Abalos said LGUs should adhere to the upcoming policy, citing the provisions of Republic Act 11332 or the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases.He said the government will impose disciplinary actions on those who will refuse to follow.Abalos raised discussions about the country’s face mask policy after the Cebu City Government made the wearing of face masks in all areas whether open spaces or not optional.The Philippines on Tuesday, September 6, had a total of 23,272 active Covid-19 cases.A total of 72,620,347 individuals in the country were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, of which 18,194,645 received booster shots or additional doses.The number of fully vaccinated individuals covers 92.98 percent of the target population. (SunStar Philippines)