Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider the government’s policy requiring people to wear face shields as protection against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
In a letter dated Sept. 20, Velasco told the President that the face shield requirement only poses an added financial burden to Filipinos who are already bearing the brunt of the pandemic, noting that there is no solid medical proof that using it would be effective against the transmission of the virus.
He also recommended that the Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the Department of Health reconsider the mandatory use of plastic face shields for the general public when going out of their homes or indoors, including in malls, commercial establishments, and public transportation.
“The use of face shields has made little difference in protecting against the transmission of Covid-19 over the proper use of masks alone, and imposes an additional burden to poor Filipino families already reeling from the adverse effect of the pandemic on their livelihood,” he said.
Velasco cited the Covid-19 Low Income Household Panel and Economic (HOPE) survey conducted by the World Bank showing a “grim picture” on the impact of the pandemic on the poorest 18 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising 70 percent of the population, and residing mostly in rural areas in Visayas and Mindanao.
He said the same survey showed that 56 percent of Filipino families have less food on the table.
“Covid-19 has worsened hunger among Filipinos. The cost of a face shield of about PHP20 to PHP50 is already a substantial amount equivalent to the cost of a meal for these poor Filipinos, and mandatory requirement of the same takes away money for food from these families,” Velasco said.
He said the World Health Organization, as well as the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend the use of eye protection, such as goggles and face shields, only for those providing direct care to patients with Covid-19.
Velasco also cited studies conducted by physician-researchers of Wayne State University School of Medicine indicate that combining the use of face shields and masks made little difference over the use of masks alone.
According to an article by researchers from the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the use of face shields may help doctors and health care workers against splashes and sprays of blood or other bodily secretions, but does not give additional protection against respiratory aerosol such as those present in Covid-19 transmission.
Velasco endorsed the findings of the epidemiology experts and recommended requiring the use of face shields plus face masks apart from personal protective equipment (PPEs), “only for enclosed spaces with high transmission of Covid-19 such as hospitals and quarantine facilities.”
He said the requirement would also add to the already worsening garbage problem in the country.
“The rest of the world universally considers the following as effective interventions to prevent the spread of Covid-19: proper wearing of face masks, regularly washing or disinfecting of hands or high-touch surfaces, and ensuring proper ventilation in indoor spaces,” Velasco said.
Duterte earlier reminded the public to continue wearing face shields saying it could provide “premium” protection against Covid-19.
“You have to continue using it (face shield). Mabuti na lang iyan (That’s good). I mean, [you will have] a little amount of protection in addition to the mask which will be provided by the face shield,” Duterte said.
While wearing a face shield could not provide “complete” protection, it could still control Covid-19 transmission in the country, Duterte said.
“Mas makatulong ito kaysa tanggalin natin (It will help us more because if you drop its use), you will remove premium of protection. [You will have] not really complete protection but the premium that it will provide by wearing face shield,” he said.
The IATF-EID on Dec. 14, 2020 issued Resolution 88, mandating all persons to wear full-coverage face shields on top of face masks in all public spaces to reduce the transmission of Covid-19.
Duterte, however, in June this year ordered the public to wear face shields in hospitals.
Duterte later decided to keep the IATF-EID’s policy on the mandatory use of face shields in public places, considering the presence of the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant.
On Sept. 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it is untimely to talk about changing the current policy on the use of face shields in the Philippines, given the spike in Covid-19 infections.
The WHO said it is also reviewing the Philippines’ experience in wearing face shields as an additional layer of protection against Covid-19, as it is observed that its use has delayed the spread of the Delta variant in the country. (PNA)