Gwen, Ahong grateful for IATF face mask announcement

CEBU Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is grateful for the announcement of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) which recommended the lifting of the mandatory wearing of face mask in open spaces.“I know that you have been asking me that same question two days ago and I chose not to react because the classier thing to do is not to react. Well, I am just so grateful that finally, Cebu’s policies are now being reaffirmed by the IATF and I think however bumpy our relationship may have been in the past, I think we’re in for smooth sailing under a new composition of the IATF,” Garcia said in an interview with reporters Friday, Sept. 9, 2022.The governor, the IATF and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier differed in their positions on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.But the IATF this week recommended to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. the optional wearing of face masks in open spaces across the country.In a joint press conference at the Malacañang on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Marcos verbally approved the IATF recommendation liberalizing the country’s face mask policy in “open, non-crowded and well-ventilated areas.”The IATF recommendation, however, only allows the non-wearing of face masks in open spaces and does not include indoor or closed spaces like transportation terminals and public utility vehicles.On June 8, 2022 Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) 16 allowing the optional wearing of face masks in comfortable and open spaces in the province of Cebu.This was followed by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s EO 5, issued on Aug. 31, declaring that the use of face masks was no longer mandatory within the jurisdiction of Cebu City except in medical facilities upon the discretion of their administrator and for people experiencing flu-like symptoms who go outside their homes.After controversy erupted over his EO, Rama on Monday, Sept. 5, signed a new executive order calling the last four months of this year a “trial period” for the non-obligatory wearing of face masks in the city.The Cebu City trial began on Sept. 1 and is set to end on Dec. 31, 2022.Meanwhile, Garcia said she wanted the province to be free from various restrictions that have burdened the lives of Cebuanos.“I can see that like us here in Cebu we really need to do a balancing act between protecting the health and safety of our constituents while considering and giving utmost importance to the livelihood of the people,” said Garcia.“It’s not one or the other, because lives need livelihood and livelihood can give better lives so sunny days are up ahead and I’m dreaming of a bright Christmas,” she added.In Lapu-Lapu City, Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan also welcomed the IATF announcement to lift the mandatory wearing of face masks in open spaces.Calling it a “good development,” Chan noted that some people have trouble breathing outdoors while wearing a mask due to the heat.As of Thursday, Sept. 8, Central Visayas had about 1,068 active Covid-19 cases, 43 of which were newly reported, according to the Covid-19 Tracker of the Department of Health in Central Visayas.Of the active cases, Cebu City had the highest number with 418 cases.Lapu-Lapu City registered 52 active cases with three new cases while Mandaue City had 95 Covid-19 cases as of Thursday, Sept. 8, with one newly reported case. (MKG / TPT)