Few Dominicans removing facemasks on 1st day they’re not obligatory

Santo Domingo, Feb 17 (EFE).- Few people are deciding not to wear facemasks in the Dominican capital on Thursday, the first day on which their use is not obligatory nationwide and after everyone has been required to wear them in public for almost two years.

The great majority of riders on the Santo Domingo metro, workers in office buildings and customers at supermarkets and malls in the capital were still wearing their facemasks on Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, President Luis Abinader announced the lifting of all restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, a decision that surprised the entire country.

By way of example, Abinader on Thursday attended an official event at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo without wearing a facemask.

The president said he had lifted the restrictions because of the improvement in health indicators and due to the “success” of the anti-Covid-19 vaccination program, which on Wednesday had been under way for a year although it has not yet achieved its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the country’s adult population.

To date, 5.8 million people – or about 55 percent of the Dominican population – have received two doses of the vaccine and 2.1 million have received at least one booster shot, according to government statistics, which do not break down the vaccine recipients by age.

Despite the hesitation of capital residents to remove their facemasks on public transportation and in office buildings, the use of facemasks has fallen off markedly over the past few months in communities in the interior of the country.

In addition, only a very few customers in bars and other nightspots in Santo Domingo have been using facemasks, despite the regulations in force until yesterday.

Despite the lifting of restrictions, Public Health Minister Daniel Rivera warned on Thursday that this doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over.

The Dominican Republic has tallied 570,889 Covid cases and 4,354 deaths due to the virus since March 2020, and it has just managed to get control over the fifth coronavirus wave caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

EFE mp/mf/cpy/bp

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