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Amidst fears that Executive Order 3 might bring about a surge in severe illness and deaths, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said the EO lifts the mandate on wearing of face masks in outdoor settings, not the wearing of face masks altogether.
“What we pushed for was the removal of the mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor settings. We are still encouraging the use of face masks outdoors, especially for those who are at high risk, like the elderly, the immunocompromised, and especially the unvaccinated,” said Concepcion, who is also the head of the Jobs Committee of the PSAC.
He added that he believes that after more than two years of observing practices that health officials have recommended in order to prevent being infected, Filipinos now know how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. “I believe people are aware of the risks; I think we should give them some credit that they know the risk levels they can safely handle.”
He pointed to a survey conducted by OCTA Research last April which showed that 30 percent of respondents will continue to wear face masks even six months after the pandemic is declared over, and 28 and 16 percent will still wear masks even after one and two years, respectively. “That’s a collective majority of the population wearing masks for at least half a year even if you don’t require them to do so,” said Concepcion.
Concepcion also addressed doubts that the removal of outdoor masking mandates will have marginal effects on the economy.
“This is far from true. How can you inspire confidence when if you go to a beach, you see everybody is still wearing a mask? How do you think foreign tourists will decide if they are made to choose between a destination that requires outdoor masking and one that does not?” he said. “Tourism is one of our biggest advantages. Our warmth, our smiling people are our assets. We should not lose this advantage. We have so many MSMEs, especially in the provinces, who rely on tourism,” he said.
As for the timing, Concepcion believes that the country has to take advantage of the fact that the current variant in circulation is mild. “I know that many feel it is not the right time but when will be the right time? There could be a worse variant, so let us prepare but let’s not overcompensate with restrictions that may no longer be practical.”
He suggested that the country make available and accessible antiviral drugs, and give the healthcare system the support that it needs.
“I understand the position of our doctors; they have the best interests for our health. But I believe we need to move on and start treating Covid like the flu,” he said. “In our discussions with the President we are perfectly aligned in this thinking,” he said. In any case, he said, the matter has already been decided by the President.