Face masks are standard fare in this pandemic-infested world. Everybody, except those gripped by a twisted sense of individualism without regard for the welfare of the people around them—also, stupidity—has adapted to a way of life where masks are a fixture.
Face shields—the transparent objects we wear like eyeglasses over our ears and are supposed to cover our entire faces, with just enough room to breathe—are another story.
One school of thought goes that face shields provide a literal second layer of protection against an enemy so unseen and so dynamic in its mutations. More than a year since COVID-19 came to our shores, and even with the titillating thought that more vaccines are coming our way, we are still grappling with thousands of new cases a day.
But others insist that we are practically the only nation that uses face shields, that the protection it provides is negligible, and that it was a manufactured demand to enable some sectors to generate good business.
Earlier, the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases mandated the use of face shields on top of face masks, and that indoor establishments will not allow entry to those not sporting them.
Last week, however, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself said that face shields should only be used in hospitals, contradicting the Department of Health and the IATF. Perhaps he found wearing them cumbersome, too.
Presidential mouthpiece Harry Roque failed to clarify whether this pronouncement by Duterte could already be enforced. He only said, adding to the confusion, that it was now “presidential policy” which the IATF could appeal. Later he said there would be no changes in the face shield rule; Duterte would eventually decide based on the recommendations of the task force.
The confusion prompted a senator to offer to create a social media group chat so that the policy makers in government can coordinate their statements instead of issuing contradictory and confusing statements.
Then again we cannot say this tendency to confuse the public is something new to us. In fact, the lack of coherence could be deemed one of the hallmarks of this government’s pandemic response.
Unfortunately, the confusion also leads the people to operate on a compliance mindset—doing things in order to comply with certain regulations or obligations instead of seeing these things’ inherent purpose and value. The people enforcing the rules also do just that: Think of those wearing their face shields like they would wear sun visors, on the top of their heads —but hey, they have the shields, so they are following the rules, aren’t they?
The confusion adds to the impression of bumbling incompetence that we are sure they do not like giving. Our officials may not be used to huddling and coordinating their positions, perhaps due to an absence of genuine leadership. For the sake of the people, however, and of a nation desperate to get on with our lives and our livelihood —not to mention exhausted at seeing family, friends and acquaintances get afflicted with the virus—we implore them to at least try.