President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he was not yet ready to lift the country’s face mask mandate despite decreasing Covid-19 cases.

In a “Talk to the People” address that aired on Tuesday, Duterte said removing the face mask requirement could cause Covid-19 to contaminate more Filipinos.

“The numbers are very low compared to the population. But you know itong mask na ano maraming nagtatanong, alam mo I am not ready to order the removal of the mask,” Duterte said.

The president stressed however that he remained willing to scrap the face shield requirement.

“‘Yung plastic na cover, puwede na ‘yun, pero it has has done a lot of good that prevented the contaminations from spreading,” he said.

“So matagal pa ito. And there are reports I said that I don’t know if it’s — subject to confirmation — na may bagong Covid found in Israel,” he added.

The Philippines recorded 3,572 cases from March 14 to 20, or 510 cases daily over the past week, 13 percent lower than March 7 to March 13 cases.

An infectious diseases expert earlier said the government should maintain the face mask requirement even under Alert Level 0.

Dr. Rontgene Solante said face masks were necessary in preventing the spread of Covid-19, which is airborne.

“We still have to maintain iyong mask natin, iyong pagsusuot ng face mask even if we’ll be on Alert Level 0 because I think that’s the more important part of protection even if other limitations will be lifted,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro