Face masks are now required to be worn by anyone whenever they are authorized to go outside their residences in all areas placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). This directive is contained in Resolution No. 18 dated 1 April 2020 (“IATF Recommendations Relative to the Management of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation”) of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). Resolution No. 18 pertinently reads:
J. For areas under ECQ, the IATF hereby adopts the policy of mandatory wearing by all residents of face masks, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable or do-it-yourself masks, face shields, handkerchiefs, or such other protective equipment that can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19, whenever allowed to go out of their residences pursuant to existing guidelines issued by the national government. Concerned LGUs are hereby enjoined to issue the necessary executive order or ordinance to that effect, and impose such penalties as may be appropriate;
As to the kind of face mask, it need not be medical-grade. It can be any face mask, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable or do-it-yourself masks, face shields, handkerchiefs, or such other protective equipment.
The Resolution is clear that it covers all areas under ECQ, which means that it is not limited to Luzon, as there are provinces outside Luzon that issued their own ECQ directives. Nevertheless, we hope that the IATF amends this policy to require the wearing of face masks in all areas, even those placed only under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), at least for the duration when any other area in the Philippines is placed under ECQ. [See the DILG Memorandum Circular for all LGUs]
The last sentence of the quoted paragraph enjoins concerned LGUs “to issue the necessary executive order or ordinance to that effect, and impose such penalties as may be appropriate”. This may be interpreted as a reminder, considering that Republic Act No. 11332 already provides the penalty of imprisonment for “[n]on-cooperation of the person … affected by the health event of public concern”. This can also be interpreted as an admission that this provision of RA 11332 has doubtful applicability to persons who fail or refuse to cooperate with quarantine guidelines, including the mandatory wearing of masks when allowed to go out of the residence. We submit that the provision is merely a reminder to LGUs and, even if there is no ordinance passed, violators of the mandatory requirement of a face mask may still face sanctions under RA 11332. The enactment of an ordinance reinforces the mandatory nature of wearing a face mask.
In any case, the requirement for a face mask is an unmistakable pronouncement of the IATF’s stand on the worldwide debate whether the wearing of face masks lessens the transmission of the virus.
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