MANILA, Philippines – The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted all countries worldwide to impose lockdown measures and travel restrictions to avoid spreading the virus.
As the world continues to live and adapt to the pandemic, several countries, including the Philippines, have lifted the face mask requirement.
However, Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Tuesday, February 8, that Filipinos are still willing to wear face masks despite the ease of restrictions.
“This is an indication that Filipinos have found value in wearing a mask and would really want to protect themselves and their families,” Vergeire said.
Here are some countries – mostly frequented by Filipinos – that have eased or lifted the mandatory face mask protocol:
Japan is one of the countries that controlled the spread of COVID-19 and has not seen a massive outbreak of the virus until 2021.
In February, the Japanese government announced that on March 13, it will start to ease restrictions on mask-wearing including in public transportation and schools. This move seeks to relax public health measures for economic and social activities.
Japan has been one of the main travel destinations of Filipinos in the past years. In 2022, there were 126,900 Filipinos who visited the country.
2. South Korea
This other country in East Asia is also one of the major success stories in containing COVID-19 and has never experienced massive lockdowns like any other country.
South Korea ended its indoor mask rule on January 30, 2023, but still recommends wearing masks, including in public transportation.
South Korea is also one of the major tourist destinations of Filipinos with 450,000 Filipino visitors in 2017.
Despite its proximity to China, the epicenter of COVID-19, Taiwan has been praised for its highly effective COVID-19 response, having had only less than 500 cases in the first few months of the pandemic.
Taiwan announced in February that it has lifted the indoor mask mandate and has eased other restrictions.
In 2019, half a million Filipino tourists visited the country.
Singapore has been lauded as highly effective in its management of containing COVID-19 with a very low number of cases from the virus. It also got the highest ranking in COVID-19 resilience by Bloomberg.
As it reopened its borders, Singapore dropped mandatory mask requirements, both indoors and outdoors, in August 2022.
There were almost 500,000 Filipino tourists who arrived in Singapore in 2022.
Thailand was able to keep the number of COVID-19 cases low in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 due to its early lockdown and effective contact tracing strategy. It, however, experienced a surge in April 2021.
As the COVID-19 situation improved, the Thai government lifted its mask mandate in 2022 and allowed bars and other night venues to operate for longer hours.
Before the pandemic, almost 500,000 Filipino travelers visited Thailand.
Vietnam is cited as one of the success stories in its fight against COVID-19 and has fared better economically than many other countries.
In 2022, the country lifted the mandatory face mask and relaxed rules of wearing it in public places.
Vietnam logged more than 100,000 Filipino visitors prior to the pandemic.
Indonesia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that was greatly affected by the pandemic and had experienced surges of cases since 2020.
With the improvement of the COVID-19 situation, Indonesia has scrapped indoor mask mandates and removed all the remaining restrictions when entering buildings in 2022.
Almost 100,000 Filipino tourists arrived in Indonesia before the pandemic.
Malaysia experienced two waves of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, but the political crisis doomed its COVID-19 response. However, the Malaysian government imposed key responses such as expanding its testing capacity for COVID-19.
As the country continued to curb the cases in 2022, Malaysia lifted the indoor mask mandate in most public areas.
According to Tourism Malaysia, 396,000 Filipino tourists visited the Southeast Asian country in 2018.
9. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom removed its mask restrictions for travelers in 2022. It, however, still recommends wearing masks indoors and in crowded places. The United Kingdom is home to an estimated 200,000 Filipinos.
10. United States
The US is one of the countries severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during the early stages of the outbreak with a recorded 103 million cases. But as the pandemic situation continued to get better, the US government announced in 2022 that wearing face masks will no longer be mandatory. It, however, still recommends wearing face masks indoors, and in public transportation, including airplanes and trains.
In 2019, the US was home to more than four million Filipinos. – Rappler.com