Face masks in workplace now voluntary, Labor dep’t says

THE wearing of face masks in private workplaces is now voluntary in the wake of Executive Order (EO) No. 7, issued last month by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) confirmed, adding however that the EO stipulates key exceptions for whom face masks remain required.

Still required to observe the mask rules are people working in healthcare offices and medical transport vehicles, as well as passengers using public transport, DoLE said in an advisory on its website late Wednesday.

EO 7 allows the “voluntary wearing of face masks in indoor and outdoor settings,” according to its title.

The wearing of masks is “encouraged” for the elderly, unvaccinated individuals, pregnant women and those with comorbidities, the immunocompromised, and individuals showing coronavirus symptoms, according to the order.

“Employers and their workers have a shared responsibility to ensure safe and healthful working conditions in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Code of the Philippines and minimum public health standards,” the Labor department said.

It noted that employers and workers may still require the wearing of face masks and implement measures to address non-compliance.

In a separate statement, the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development said DoLE should clarify its guidelines and specify which work environments are most at risk of coronavirus outbreaks.

“We recommend that workers wear masks because they can still be infected by the virus, which is airborne,” it said. “We should all remember that we are still in a pandemic.”

Last week, Tourism Secretary Esperanza Christina Codilla Frasco said the President eased the mask mandate to keep up with regional neighbors that have long done away with mask requirements.

“The overarching direction of the Marcos administration is to allow our country to convey an openness and readiness to the world to receive tourists and investments so that we give our fellow Filipinos to regain all the livelihood and losses that were incurred during the pandemic,” she said at a televised briefing on Oct. 25.

Mr. Marcos also approved a pandemic task force recommendation to ease quarantine rules for foreigners and Filipinos entering the country.

In September, the President first made face masks optional outdoors.

The OCTA Research Group on Wednesday said new coronavirus pandemic infections might fall to 500 per day, after the Philippines tallied its lowest daily caseload since June 28 on Tuesday with 676 infections. — John Victor D. Ordoñez