Partygoers are not required to wear a mask during events – but are still urged to consider all the risks – particularly the possible arrival of monkeypox – before taking that chance, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh explained at the ministry’s press conference on Wednesday.
However, the public is still required to wear a mask at all times in schools and other public spaces.
Asked to explain the logic behind this, Deyalsingh said, "Because we feel at this time that the wearing of masks in public schools is the correct thing to do to stop spread (of covid19). Whilst the wearing of masks in other situations is optional, we still give the advice for people to exercise their personal responsibility."
The Prime Minister moved to make wearing masks in public gatherings mandatory on August 30, 2020.
Restrictions on all sectors have been lifted, as a result of a significant decline in daily deaths and new covid19 cases, largely thanks to vaccination. But the mask mandate remains.
Now, with the entertainment sector on its way to recovery, and large gatherings allowed, members of the public have been calling on the government to revisit its face mask law.
Responding to a question on the usefulness of a mask in reducing the spread of covid19, given reports of fewer people without masks at large events and low covid19 numbers, Deyalsingh said: “We are always concerned when we see large gatherings where people are not wearing their masks –as they are entitled to in these gatherings, because really in these private settings you don't necessarily have to wear masks.
“But we continue to urge people to be careful, because as I said earlier, don't assume because we don't have a suspected case or confirmed case of monkeypox, it is not here.
"The same assumption we asked you to make many months ago to assume the person next to you has covid19 – now do the same thing with monkeypox.”
While he understands the level of frustration among the public over adhering to the standing covid19 mandatory mask regulation, Deyalsingh said masks are one of the main reasons for the low infection rate.
“I know it's uncomfortable. I know people are just tired of adhering to public health measures. I get it.
"But this is what the world has brought upon us. This is our lot to bear. And I think for the continued protection of our loved ones, we need to be careful and weigh our risks, as we party or engage in any social activity, that you will be in danger to yourself and your loved ones.
“All of us have to engage in that personal risk assessment. How much risk do I want to take on that – catch covid19 or, now, monkeypox, and take it home to my family's infected children, affected grandparents?"
With the removal of safe zones, he said the ministry has not been monitoring facemask-wearing at parties because: “Things have evolved, things have changed as we come to the end of this phase of the acute covid19 pandemic.
“However, with the advent of monkeypox, we have not instituted measures to deal with monkeypox, whether it's travel restrictions or anything else.
"So I think the previous advice that we gave is that assume that the person next to you is affected to protect yourself, because the safe-zone concept which we launched last year is now out of the window.”