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Palace says face mask requirement to remain even in areas under Alert Level 1

MANILA, Philippines — Wearing of face masks would still be required even if the Philippines is placed under the most lenient Alert Level 1 or the so-called "new normal," Malacañang said.

Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said venue capacity limits would be lifted under the "new normal" but establishments should ensure that minimum health standards – including the wearing of face masks – are followed.

"They (establishments) have to be aware that the masks should still be there. The masks won't be gone under Alert Level 1 under our guidelines. The same is true with minimum public health standards," Nograles said at a press briefing last Tuesday.

"There has to be self-regulation, self-policing in establishments themselves," he added.

Under Alert Level 1, intrazonal and interzonal travel will be allowed regardless of age and comorbidities. All establishments or activities may operate or be undertaken at full on-site or venue capacity but minimum public health standards like observing physical distance, frequent handwashing, and wearing of face masks are observed.

Metro Manila and several other areas will be under Alert Level 2 until the end of February because of the decline in new COVID-19 infections and the low healthcare utilization rate. Under the alert status, a number of businesses and activities may operate or be undertaken but only half of the capacity of indoor venues or 70% for outdoor venues may be filled up. Intrazonal and interzonal movement are permitted but local governments may impose "reasonable" movement restrictions.

The health department has admitted that Metro Manila was qualified to be under Alert Level 1 but the government had decided to keep it under Alert Level 2 because it wanted to ensure a smooth transition to the "new normal."

"We are preparing to transition already… We have to prepare the environment so that when we ease the restrictions, it would be safe for our population," Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said at a Palace briefing last Monday.

"It's not just people, but also establishments, both public and private, should provide safe spaces for our people," she added.

Majority of the Philippines' regions are now classified as low risk, based on the latest health department data. Only Davao, Cordillera, Western Visayas and SOCCSKSARGEN regions are at moderate risk.

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