The World Health Organization yesterday said the Philippines should retain its policy on the use of face shields after logging a record-high daily tally of COVID-19 cases on Monday.
“In a situation where face shields are considered an additional layer of protection and the country [on Monday] reported the highest number of cases, I think we shouldn’t be even talking about changing the position now because we may in the process give the wrong message to the public,” WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe told CNN Philippines.
The logged 22,415 new COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing the total number of infections to 2,103,331. The tally overtook the previous record high of 22,366 new cases logged on Aug. 30.
Abeyasinghe said the government could discuss policy changes once the COVID-19 situation is already under control.
“You as a country have decided that face shields should be worn. You shouldn’t change that position now when the country is experiencing the highest number of cases. That will send a wrong signal to people,” Abeyasinghe said.
Earlier, the Palace said wearing of face shields will remain mandatory for a longer time as an “added protection” for Filipinos until the virus is no longer a threat.
“As of now, there are no plans yet from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to remove the face shields,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
The IATF position was reiterated despite the growing questions regarding its usefulness, as well as corruption allegations pertaining to its procurement.
The Philippines is one of the few countries advocating the use of face shields in addition to a mask as protection against the virus.
Abeyasinghe earlier said there was no sufficient evidence yet to show that the use of face shields has helped the country delay the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“It’s interesting that we have been able to sort of delay the speed by which the Delta variant is spreading, but we don’t know if the face shields are a contributory factor. While we are understanding all of these issues, it’s best to look for evidence and make our decisions based on that,” he said.
“The face shields are being used to reduce the likelihood of infection through the eyes and so that’s not actually an additional layer although it boosts the protection from poor wearing of mask practices,” Abeyasinghe added.
Abeyasinghe said a single face mask could protect people from contracting the virus provided that it is worn “properly and consistently.”
“You can wear two masks, you could wear 4 masks, but if you don’t wear it properly or consistently, it will not provide protection,” he said.
“You don’t need double masking. You don’t need added layers. What you need is diligence in following public health standards,” Abeyasinghe added.
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said scientists should not be muzzled during the pandemic as their views guide the government in decision making.
“We can’t contain the pandemic if we censor studies,” Recto said, referring to calls to stop the independent OCTA Research from sharing its research findings to the public.
“After all, OCTA people do not craft policy. They merely recommend. And their output is subjected to review by the government’s own panel of experts,” he added.
He said if the government’s narrative is not dominating the discussion, “then officials should up their game on how to communicate the findings.”
“But telling OCTA to stand down is not the solution. Kung sa tingin ng pamahalaan hindi tama ang OCTA, then challenge their findings. This is the kind of exchange that will enlighten us all,” Recto said.