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Students and teachers attending face-to-face classes are still required to wear face masks even as the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has recommended its voluntary use in open spaces by year-end, the Department of Health (DOH) said in a report by GMA News.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated that the IATF’s proposal was for the optional wearing of face masks only in open spaces or non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation, provided that the COVID-19 booster uptake in the country improves.

Since classes are held indoors, she pointed out that this was not covered by the recommendation.

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“Classes are done indoors. Hindi pa ho kasama ngayon ang indoors dito sa ating polisiya,” Vergeire said in an interview on GMA News’ Unang Balita.

For its part, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Thursday that they have “no comment” yet on the matter as they have not yet coordinated with the DOH.

“Will wait for the official approval of the Office of the President and we will abide by whatever [it] directs as to do, as well as the DOH,” DepEd spokesperson Atty. Michael Poa said in a press conference.

He said that the DepEd will come out with necessary announcements once the Office of the President has issued an executive order regarding the IATF proposal.

Vergeire called on parents and guardians to ensure that their children would still wear their face masks in schools so as to avoid the risk of COVID-19 infection.

“Sana po ang ating mga magulang, magkaron pa rin ng pag-assess ng risks dahil alam natin na ang ating mga kabataan, marami sa kanila ay hindi pa bakunado. Ipagsuot pa rin natin ng masks ang ating mga kabataan ‘pag papasok sa school,” she said.

“Kapag uuwi na lang kapag maglalaro, at maluwag naman ang lugar, walang tao, at saka na lang tayo magkaroon nitong optional wearing of mask,” she added.

The IATF has also highly encouraged senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals to remain wearing face masks.

Boosters

Further, Vergeire admitted that the uptake of booster shots in the country is still low with only 18.3 million Filipinos receiving their booster dose as of September 6, based on DOH's data.

There were 72.6 million individuals who have completed their primary vaccine series. 

She said that so far, only around 2.3 million Filipinos have been boosted under the government’s PinasLakas campaign, which initially targeted to give booster shots to 23.8 million Filipinos within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

“Sa tingin natin, hindi natin ‘yan mararating sa ngayon dahil nga bagal ng uptake. Ang gagawin natin, this will be a phased approach kung saan pagdating ng October 8 o 100 days, we expect na 30% of our eligible population, tapos susunod na ito hanggang sa dulo ng taon,” she said.

Vergeire earlier said that the DOH increased the PinasLakas campaign target to more than 400,000 COVID-19 booster shots per day after the campaign failed to meet its daily goals since it started.

One of the reasons the DOH sees for the refusal to get the booster dose is that nine out of ten Filipinos are "overconfident" about the protection elicited by the first two COVID-19 doses and see no need of getting a booster shot. 


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