Philippines scraps outdoor face mask mandate

The Philippines has eased its outdoor face mask rule after two and a half years. The country was one of the last in Southeast Asia to relax its mandate, which was made to curb coronavirus infections.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued an executive order on Monday making face masks in open spaces voluntary.

Some people have welcomed the move. A male pedicab driver said that for workers like himself, "it's best not to always wear the mask. It's difficult to breathe but we have to practice social distancing."

Other people said they still want to wear face masks to prevent infection.
One woman said, "It's for our own protection to still wear a mask, so that we can avoid sickness. COVID is still spreading in our country."

The Philippine tourism ministry expects that the sector can gradually catch up with neighboring countries in the "race to recovery." Tourism comprised more than 13 percent of the country's economy before the pandemic, but it fell to around 5 percent during the past two years.

The government's latest step aims to balance the health of its people and the health of its economy.