Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Saul Loeb/Pool via AP
  • Sen. Marco Rubio mocked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for wearing a mask and face shield in the Philippines.
  • The Philippines, which is undergoing a spike in COVID-19, requires masks and face shields in public.
  • Rubio's home state of Florida is dealing with a surge of its own, with hospitalizations on the rise.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Sen. Marco Rubio mocked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday for wearing a mask and face shield upon arriving in the Philippines.

"Our @SecDef is vaccinated," Rubio wrote in a tweet alongside a video that showed Austin deplaning. "But he arrives in the Philippines wearing a mask AND a face shield."

"Embarrassing COVID theatre," he continued.

The Philippines requires anyone in public places to wear a mask and a face shield, according to the US Embassy in the Philippines. Some of the people Austin is greeted by in the video are wearing masks and face shields as well.

Read more: Vaccine mandates are coming, and it's about time

The Philippines is also facing a surge in COVID-19, prompting authorities in Manila to impose tighter coronavirus restrictions this week. Reuters reported Tuesday that the Philippines recorded its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases in more than six weeks. The country has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia, according to The New York Times.

Rubio's home state of Florida is dealing with its own COVID-19 surge. The state leads the US in COVID-19 cases, and has the highest number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 per capita, according to data compiled by the Times. It also has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, after Louisiana.

Austin met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit. After the meeting, Duterte reversed a past decision to withdraw from a defense pact with the US, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Associated Press reported. The VFA allows the large-scale combat exercises between the US and Philippines forces, which have occasionally sparked concern from China.

"Our countries face a range of challenges, from the climate crises to the pandemic and, as we do, a strong, resilient US-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific," Austin said. "A fully restored VFA will help us achieve that goal together."

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