As we all know, Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has had tremendous impacts since its outbreak in 2020. With the virus being known to be easily transmitted to another person in several ways and frequently mutates upon reports of COVID-19 surges, it begs one to wonder: “when will this virus end?”, “When can we switch back to normal?”, and most importantly, “when can we finally remove our masks?”. While here in the Philippines, the government agency mandated to address infectious diseases, particularly the COVID-19, called the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) have already approved the lowering of the COVID-19 Alert Levels in the country, it is still best believed by our government officials and health experts that the “new normal” is here to stay and that means we still can’t achieve a no mask policy during COVID in the country.
Everyone one of us has had our personal and career plans disrupted when COVID-19 had an outbreak here and globally. Since then, we have all looked forward to the day when all goes back to normal and we can get on with our lives with nothing that could threaten our health everywhere we go. However, as public knowledge to everyone, the COVID-19 virus is particularly known to spread between people easily and in multiple ways. Read through this article to give you scientific reasons as to why we still can’t have a no mask policy during COVID.
COVID-19: Briefly Explained
As a quick refresher, the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that the current evidence gathered from reported COVID-19 cases states that the virus is transmitted between people in close contact, such as a conversational distance, with each other. What happens is that when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, or breathes, the virus spreads in microscopic liquid particles from their mouth or nose. Another transmission case is when a person contracts infectious particles inhaled from a short distance (also known as short-range airborne transmission) or when infectious particles come into direct contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth (known as droplet transmission).
With everyone staying at home or at least looking out for indoor restaurants, cafes, or any place where you can unwind outside your home, the World Health Organization has also expressed their great call for the need to have properly ventilated indoor settings at home, at the office, and other public places. This is because it has been proven that the virus can also be contracted in poorly ventilated or crowded indoor areas as the virus particles can remain in the air – a feat that the WHO calls to be a “long-range airborne transmission”. From here, homeowners and aspiring ones should definitely put great attention to keeping their homes clean and safe from the virus. So, if you’re a Bria house and lot owner or looking for an affordable house and lot at Bria Homes, you can check out this article for tips on creating a cleaner and safe home during the pandemic.
Masks 101: Choosing what mask to wear
With hundreds of cases being reported daily in the country and thousands globally, having no masks during COVID is still not viable as the pandemic is still around the corner and COVID-19 variants like the Omicron and Delta variants are still something to be worried about. That is why if you are one of those people who are so eager to return to the ‘old’ normal that it makes you imagine whether having no masks during COVID is possible any time soon, keep in mind that health experts and government officials still believe that wearing the right masks is still one of the best ways to reduce your risk to COVID-19.
To help you in choosing what mask you should wear, here’s a guide released by the World Health Organization for people all around the world to follow:
- Reusable non-medical masks
- These types of masks should comply with the approved standards of the WHO particularly the ASTM F3502 standard or CEN Working Agreement 17553
- Disposable medical masks
- This must also meet the medical mask standards namely: EN 14683 Type I, ASTM F2100 Level 1, YY/T 0969, YY 0469 (or equivalent);
- Other types of well-fitting non-medical masks
- This includes homemade masks that may be made with multiple layers
If you happen to be skeptical about the standard or the quality of the medical mask you are wearing, you can also check the approved medical face masks by the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines here.
In addition to the list of the recommended face masks that the public should wear made by the WHO, they have also provided a guide on when should medical masks be worn. First, as per the WHO, disposable medical masks should be worn by the following groups who are classified to be the most vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19: 1) people aged 60 and above and; 2) immunocompromised patients. More importantly, the WHO also recommends the wearing of disposable medical masks for 1) people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and; 2) people who are waiting for their COVID-19 test results.
Will there be a maskless future any time soon?
After unpacking all the basics about COVID-19, let’s go back to our question once again shall we? As mentioned, with the current standing of COVID-19 cases in the country and overseas, Philippine health experts have already expressed that we are not yet ready to have no masks during COVID. As advocated by the WHO to all countries masks are one of the key measures in reducing the spread of the virus and in mitigating all the possible risks correlated to COVID-19.
Additionally, the Department of Health of the Philippines Secretary Francisco Duque III has expressed that it is not best to have no mask while there are still continuous cases of COVID-19 being recorded in the country and especially now that there are ongoing campaign rallies that can further spread the virus. He added that now more than ever, the country must strengthen its compliance to the minimum public health standards (MPHS) such as the use of face masks. For the Health Secretary, the use of a face mask is not only for reducing the people’s vulnerability to COVID-19 but also serves as an added protection to influenza, tuberculosis, measles, and other airborne diseases.
However, while we cannot go maskless for the time being, this should not keep us from putting a little hope that someday, masks can now be an option for the people. The Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that once the cases of COVID-19 become manageable and the disease itself would be declared as endemic, then that is the time where the wearing of masks can no longer be mandatory.
Reduce your risk of getting COVID-19
As a gentle reminder for everyone, the pandemic is still far from over. There are still a lot of people getting hospitalized from the disease and still a lot of people contracting it. We should not be complacent and instead, continuously follow all health protocols to keep you and your family safe.
Apart from wearing your masks at all times, you can also help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by following the minimum public health standards set by the government, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated indoor locations, keeping a clean environment in your own homes, getting vaccinated and booster shots.