Christmas without masks is Palace's hopeful outlook

Published June 17, 2021, 3:00 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

As more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government is hopeful that the nation can celebrate the forthcoming holiday season without the mandatory masks.

A photo of singer Jose Mari Chan with the caption “Imagine a No-Mask Christmas” is shared by Fr. Nicanor Austriaco towards the end of his virtual presentation on “Building Population Immunity for a No Mask Christmas” on June 17, 2021.

According to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, the government aims to administer more vaccines to attain “population protection” initially in National Capital Region and other high-risk areas before the end of the year. Containing the virus spread may pave the way for the easing of the mask wearing rule in these places.

“Kaya po ‘yan ‘no. Kaya nga po we are aiming for population protection or iyong containment na sinasabi ni Fr. (Nicanor) Austriaco kasi alam na natin na sa mga bansang nakamit na nila iyong containment eh hindi na sila nagmamaskara – at least sa outdoors ‘no gaya po ng Israel at ilang lugar sa Amerika (We can do it. We are aiming for population protection or containment mentioned by Fr. Austriaco because we know that countries that attained containment have dropped the use of masks at least outdoors such as Israel and some places in America),” he said during a televised press briefing Thursday, June 17.

“So that is what we’re aiming for ‘no. Tama po si Fr. Austriaco, a maskless Christmas,” he added.

NCR Plus 8 includes Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal. These are the areas initially prioritized by the government in the vaccine rollout to curb the rapid surge in coronavirus cases.

Prior to Roque’s comments, Austriaco, a molecular biologist, said NCR Plus 8 could achieve COVID-19 containment by October at the rate of 250,000 doses administered per day. Herd immunity can be achieved in these areas with a daily vaccination rate of 250,000 from June 1, 2021 to November 30, 2021.

Austriaco, in the same online press briefing, said reaching the goal of “no-mask Christmas” could be “possible,” citing people can enjoy the festive season similar to the time prior to the pandemic. The visiting University of Santo Tomas professor also shared a picture card of singer Jose Mari Chan with the caption “Imagine a No-Mask Christmas” before wrapping up his presentation.

To attain COVID 19 containment, Austriaco explained that around 40 to 50 percent of the population must be vaccinated. In NCR Plus 8, around 33.3 million doses are needed to vaccinate 16.65 million, or 45 percent of the 37 million population.

Around 70 to 80 percent of the population, on the other hand, must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. This means 25.9 million of 37 million population of NCR Plus 8 must be inoculated. At least 51.8 million doses are needed.

At present, around 2 million people have been fully vaccinated since the government’s vaccination drive started last March. The country has so far secured more than 14 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, including the latest shipment of 1.5 million doses from Sinovac.