June 19, 2021 at 02:00 am
Willie Casas and Macon Ramos-Araneta
Police will continue to enforce the mandatory wearing of face shields in line with the latest guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said Friday.
Eleazar issued the statement in the wake of a Palace announcement that it was now official policy to require the wearing of face shields only in hospitals, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the slow pace of vaccinations.
The IATF recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte that the wearing of face shields remain mandatory.
“The latest recommendation of the IATF to the President is to continue making mandatory the wearing of face shields in enclosed spaces, commercial areas, public transport, terminals, and even places of worship,” Eleazar said.
“If there are any changes, the PNP will wait for the amended guidelines so that we can implement them. For now, it’s the status quo and we first follow what the guidelines say to avoid confusing the public,” he said in Filipino.
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Duterte has agreed that the public should only be required to wear a face shield when they go to hospitals.
Sotto, during a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Tuesday, noted that the Philippines is the only country in the world requiring the use of face shields in public spaces.
On Thursday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it was policy to no longer require face shields except in hospitals, because that is what the President said. However, he said this would change if the IATF appealed Duterte’s decision.
An expert on infectious diseases urged the public to continue wearing face shields, even in areas where these are no longer required, to avoid more infectious COVID-19 variants.
The Delta COVID-19 variant that originated in India is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom, said Dr. Edsel Salvana of the Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group.
There are 13 known cases of the Delta variant in the Philippines.
Face shields could serve as an extra layer of protection against these variants, Salvana said in a televised public briefing.
“For me, even if they say that face shields are no longer required, I will continue to use them, especially with the threat of this variant,” Salvana said.
With some 1.3 million coronavirus infections and around 23,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 tally in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.
The Philippines earlier detected cases of the Alpha variant and the Beta variant first monitored in South Africa, as well as a homegrown P.3 variant.
The pushback against the mandatory use of face shields, however, remained strong in Congress.
Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera said she “couldn’t agree more” with the President that face shields should only be worn in hospitals.
“It is about time we do away with face shields because [making them mandatory] is anti-poor and an unnecessary expense for the Filipino people,” the Bagong Henerasyon lawmaker said.
She also noted that the Philippines is the only country in the world that requires the wearing of face shields as an added protection against COVID-19.
Herrera expressed hope that Health Secretary Francisco Duque would immediately act on the President’s remark.
“I sincerely hope Secretary Duque will act on this accordingly and swiftly,” she said.
Herrera joined several politicians in urging the IATF to scrap the mandatory wearing of face shields in public areas.
Senator Nancy Binay sought for the justification behind the compulsory use of face shields.
Earlier, Senator Ramon Revilla, Jr. urged the government to drop the mandatory use of face shields.
Instead, he said the public should continue to practice proven minimum health standards--- proper wearing of face masks; social distancing; and washing of hands and proper hygiene--which have been the most effective means of preventing COVID-19 infection.
Duque has said that while wearing of face shields is mandatory, there is no penalty for not wearing one.