President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has allowed the voluntary use of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded areas as the country inches closer to the "wall of immunity" against COVID-19, Malacañang said Monday.
The president has signed Executive Order No. 3 which makes wearing of face masks optional in non-risky settings, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said, adding that the country was just 6% away from the so-called "wall of immunity".
The EO takes effect "immediately" upon publication on the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation. The order was published on the Official Gazette on Monday.
According to the EO, the voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces is allowed provided that the area is non-crowded with good ventilation.
Non-fully vaccinated individuals, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals, however, are still highly encouraged to wear their masks and physical distancing will be observed at all times.
Face masks should continue to be worn in indoor private and public establishments, including public transportation by land, air or sea, and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, Cruz-Angeles said.
"Tuloy pa rin ang other public health standards intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the country," she said.
"It shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision making, socio-economic equity and rights-based approach," she added.
The signing of the EO came after the government's inter-agency task force against COVID-19 recommended making the wearing of face masks outdoors optional.
Cruz-Angeles also announced that the state of calamity in the country due to COVID-19 may be extended for "possibly three months" to continue its benefits such as indemnification, emergency procurement, and special risk allowance for health care workers.
The state of calamity, which was declared by former President Rodrigo Duterte during the height of the pandemic, is set to expire on Monday, Sept. 12.