‘Face shields must remain, for now’

    HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday thumbed down proposals by some sectors that the government already drop the policy requiring the use of face shields in public places.

    In a text message, Duque said the use of face shields remain an integral part of the minimum public health standards.

    Duque said the policy cannot be lifted yet because the number of vaccinated individuals in the country remains low.

    He noted that as of May 30, there have only been 5,180,721 COVID-19 vaccines administered in the country, including 1,206,371 fully vaccinated individuals.

    “Our two-dose vaccination coverage is still low due to the inadequate vaccine supply,” said Duque.

    Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on Wednesday called for the removal of the mandatory face shield policy supposedly to lessen the expenses and problems of the public. He said the use of the face shields should be limited in hospitals and to healthcare workers.

    Medical anthropologist Dr. Gideon Lasco had also urged the government to rethink the policy because there is no systematic study about its effectivity in preventing the transmission of the disease.

    Lasco also noted that other countries no longer required the wearing of face shields.
    Duque insisted that using face shields reduces the risks of COVID-19 transmission.

    “There are many scientific studies showing that face shields in combination with face masks and more than one meter social distancing provide a greater than 95 percent protection,” said Duque.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque echoed Duque and said that the use of face shield, which he said is based on Science, is as effective as being vaccinated if combined with the use of face mask and observance of social distancing.

    “Statistically if you wear a facemask, face shield and observe distancing, it provides protection almost equivalent to that of a vaccine. So for me, that has scientific basis,” he said, citing a study presented by epidemiologist Edsel Salvaña.

    He also said that “in terms of expenses, while people already spent for it, almost all people have face shields now so it is not an additional expense.”

    Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya likewise rejected the suggestion.

    “If you are going to ask us in the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), it’s not yet time to stop wearing face shields,” Malaya said.

    During the Laging Handa press briefing, Malaya noted that the country has yet to get out of the COVID-19 problem.

    “We are not yet in the level of what we call herd protection or what we call public protection which we will attain only once we have vaccinated 50 people million,” he also said.

    Malaya said the wearing of face shields was required by the government last year as an “added level of protection” against COVID-19.

    ‘Now, if we are going to remove the face shield, that should be replaced by something else which I think is vaccination,” he added.

    Roque said the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will look into the proposal to update the protocol on the use of face shield in public places.

    For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III called on the IATF to do away with the 14-day quarantine for all travelers arriving in the country who have already completed their COVID-19 jabs “as long as health standards are followed.”

    Sotto said allowing the seamless entry of persons who are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is one way of enticing them to come to the country in a bid to slowly reopen the economy.

    “Why do fully vaccinated people have to still do the two-week quarantine when traveling to the Philippines? It doesn’t make sense! Defeats the purpose of vaccinating so we can open the economy,” Sotto said.

    Roque last month said the government has introduced new health protocols for all people arriving in the country, including those who have received full doses of the vaccine.

    According to the rules, Roque said arriving passengers are required to complete a 14-day quarantine – 10 days in an accredited quarantine hotel or facility, and the remaining four days will be in isolation at home or at their destiny.

    Arriving passengers will also undergo a mandatory reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test on the 7th day upon arrival but must still complete the 10-day quarantine even if his test comes out negative.

    Sotto said such rules are not good to the economy since fully vaccinated people will have second thoughts about coming to the country.

    “Vaccinated investors won’t come because they have to quarantine or even Filipinos who are vaccinated are having second thoughts,” he added.

    Health officials said receiving the full doses of the vaccine does not guarantee a person will not be able to transmit COVID-19 or get infected with the virus. Having received full doses of the vaccine will not lead to serious health problems once infected with the virus.

    Sotto also said the government can also allow its people not to wear face shields in public, a recommendation first floated by Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Raymond Africa