Palace sees no-mask Christmas this year

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang Palace is confident that Filipinos can celebrate Christmas this year without the need to wear anti-virus masks in some public areas.

During a Palace briefing, molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco Jr., OP said NCR Plus 8, which includes Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal, is projected to achieve COVID-19 containment by October, as well as herd immunity in November.

“This is a realistic and attainable goal for all of us. We have to imagine, as a country, a no-mask Christmas. Can we have a no-mask Christmas? What will it look like? It will look like what it was before. This is possible,” Fr. Austriaco stated.

“Kaya po yan,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque expressed optimism for a no-mask Christmas.

“Kaya nga po we are aiming for population protection or yung containment na sinasabi ni Fr. Austriaco kasi alam natin sa mga bansang nakamit yung containment, hindi na sila nagmamask at least sa outdoors gaya po ng Israel at ibang lugar sa Amerika. That is what we’re aiming for. Tama po si Fr. Austriaco, a mask-less Christmas,” Roque added.

The molecular biologist-priest who is a professor of biology and theology at Providence Colleges in the US explained that once herd immunity is achieved in the NCR Plus 8, the rest of the country will be protected as surges usually start in the NCR Plus 8.

According to Fr. Austriaco, non-wearing of masks in gatherings among vaccinated people and further reopening of the economy are allowed once containment is attained. He added that the “old normal” will return once herd immunity is reached.

Herd immunity, which protects the unvaccinated, is achieved when 70 to 80 percent of a population is vaccinated and COVID-19 attack rate is close to zero, Fr. Austriaco said.

Expressing hope for a mask-less Christmas just like before, Fr. Austriaco stated that it is a realistic and attainable goal as long as the country secures a steady supply of vaccines.

“Israel showed that once you attain containment you do not even have to have herd immunity, the average daily attack rate has to fall between 1 and 100,000, that is about 100 cases per day in the NCR. When that happens, we can begin to lift social distance and masking arrangements. This is something that we can imagine,” Fr. Austriaco elaborated.

— Mini, The Summit Express

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