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Face mask use is still mandatory,’ according to a NegOr health executive.

Even though the province has reported a single-digit number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in recent weeks, wearing a face mask is still necessary and highly advised in Negros Oriental, according to a major health official here.

Dr. Liland Estacion, Assistant Provincial Health Officer, stated in an interview that no declaration has been made by municipal or provincial officials declaring the use of face masks optional, especially outdoors.

“At this time, we do not suggest the optional use of face masks/covering because, while our positive cases remain at a low level, there is still a risk of people catching the virus due to the rapid transmission of the sub-variants,” Estacion said in a combination of English and Cebuano.

On Thursday afternoon, she reported six new Covid-19 instances, none of which were sub-variants of the Omicron variant.

The provincial government of Cebu has announced that wearing face masks outside is optional, a decision that has drawn the attention of national government officials.

“The province isn’t out of the loop yet,” Estacion explained, “since our reports don’t reflect the real situation here with people self-testing with antigen test kits that are easily available over-the-counter at pharmacies.”

The province’s Covid-19 caseload stood at 23,563 as of June 16, with 22,815 recoveries, 742 fatalities, and six active cases.

Despite efforts to increase vaccination rates in the province, hundreds of thousands of people remain unvaccinated, according to Estacion.

From June 1 to June 16, she reported a “mere achievement” of only 4,589 people who were found for their first dose.

The National Vaccination Operations Center has set a goal of vaccinating 300,000 “zero-dose” people in Negros Oriental by June 30, but Estacion believes this will be “impossible” to achieve.

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