MANILA, Nov 2 (Mabuhay) — Students and teachers attending face-to-face classes may now opt to remove their face masks even in classrooms as the Department of Education (DepEd) confirmed on Tuesday that they will abide by the existing national policy allowing optional masking indoors and outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

FETCHING STUDENTS. A teacher leads her pupils to the gate where parents are waiting to fetch their children at Pinyahan Elementary School in Quezon City on Wednesday (Nov. 2, 2022). Classes in public elementary and high schools have returned to five days of face-to-face classes beginning Wednesday. (MNS photo)

When asked what the DepEd’s instructions to schools on the wearing of face masks in classrooms would be, DepEd spokesperson Atty. Michael Poa said that they “will follow EO (Executive Order) 7.”

“Schools may immediately implement optional masking indoors pursuant to EO 7,” Poa said In a message to reporters.

He said that an amendatory DepEd Order would soon be issued on the matter.

EO No. 7, signed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., grants people the option not to wear their masks in indoor settings for the first time since March 2020.

The order, however, still recommends the wearing of face masks for the elderly, individuals with comorbidities, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, as well as unvaccinated individuals, and people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Before the schools reopened for in-person classes on August 22, Poa reported that only 19% of learners were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, based on the Learner Information System.

DepEd earlier confirmed receiving reports of COVID-19 cases in several schools. Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, however, said that this was a natural consequence of the reopening of different sectors, like education.

Both the DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) said that such events are expected since the pandemic is still prevalent in the country.

Starting Wednesday, November 2, all public schools are mandated to implement full face-to-face classes, except for those granted exceptions.

Private schools, on the other hand, may continue holding either five-day face-to-face classes, a blended learning modality, or full-distance learning for the rest of the academic year.

Last month, DepEd affirmed that learners had the option not to wear a face mask in outdoor settings based on the then-national policy.

Based on EO 7, mandatory masking will still be implemented in the following areas:

healthcare facilities, including, but not limited to clinics, hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, and dialysis clinics

medical transport vehicles, such as ambulances and paramedic rescue vehicles

public transportation by land, air, or sea. (MNS)