The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Monday urged local government units (LGUs) to pass an ordinance requiring their constituents to wear face masks in public as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Following the resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año said LGUs issuing an ordinance requiring residents to wear face masks in public can help in ensuring that people are not passing the virus around.
He says that as the number of Covid-19 cases in the Philippines surges, LGUs must adapt and respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We must be vigilant. Hindi biro ang coronavirus na ito kaya hinihikayat ko ang mga LGU na tiyakin na ang kanilang mga kababayan ay laging nakasuot ng face mask kapag sila ay lalabas sa pamamagitan ng pagsasabatas ng ordinansa ukol dito. (This coronavirus should not be taken lightly so I encourage LGUs to ensure that their constituents are always wearing face masks whenever they go out of their houses through enacting an ordinance on this). This is our small way of ensuring that the virus will not spread,” Año said.
Año earlier tested positive for Covid-19 and is now on self-quarantine.
He explained that the government will accept improvised or home-made face masks as long as people use it in public.
He added that coupled with the other mechanisms currently existing in line with the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) such as physical distancing, usage of quarantine passes, and encouraging people to stay at home, among others, mandatory wearing of face masks whenever they are in public places is an additional measure that can be practiced within the community.
“Kung maipapasa ng mga LGU ang ordinansa ng mandatory wearing of face mask, dagdag na naman ito sa mga umiiral na hakbang ng pamahalaan sa pagpigil sa pagkalat ng coronavirus sa ating mga pamayanan (If LGUs can pass ordinances on mandatory wearing of face masks, it will be an addition to the measures being implemented by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus in our communities) and right now, we cannot be limiting ourselves to minimal preventive measures,” he said.
He said the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States are mulling on changing their stand on the usage of face masks in controlling the coronavirus.
The WHO initially recommended that community-level usage of face masks is not encouraged noting that it should only be worn by people with Covid-19 symptoms and health care workers.
He said a US study prompted WHO and CDC’s possible change of heart. The said study suggests that droplets from coughs and sneezes could be projected further than originally thought, hence, requiring people to wear face masks for some protection.
“Despite the fact that people generally are staying at home, hindi pa rin naman natin maiiwasan na minsan ay lumabas sila para bumili ng pagkain at ibang essentials at maaari itong maging pagkakataon para maipasa ang virus kaya lubhang napakahalaga ng pagsusuot ng face masks (we cannot avoid instances when they have to go out to buy food and other essentials. This is an opportunity for them to pass the virus so it is important to wear face masks),” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, deputy chief for operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield commander, also called for the passage of local ordinances mandating people to wear masks when they are outside their houses or in public.
He says that without an ordinance, the PNP can only reprimand people who will not wear face masks in public.
“Sa ngayon (For now), what we can do is to caution them, para sila ay pauwiin (we can just send them home) or deny them entry sa ating mga (to our) quarantine-controlled points,” Eleazar said.