To wear or not to wear: Palace confirms Duterte’s order on face shield use amid differing statements

June 17, 2021 - 5:18 PM
People wearing face masks and face shields as a protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), attend an Easter Sunday Mass outside the St. Peter Parish Shrine of Leaders, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, April 4, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

Palace finally confirmed President Rodrigo Duterte‘s order that face shields shall only be worn in hospitals.

This directive came after some government officials issued different statements on the standing face shield policy should it still be implemented.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made this announcement in a briefing on Thursday, June 17.

This confirmed the tweet of Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who similarly said: “Last night, the President agreed that face shields should only be used in hospitals. Allowed us to remove ours! Attention DOH!”

Since last December, the government has required the public to wear face shields over face masks in all public indoor and outdoor spaces as part of the mandated minimum public health standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As of writing, there is still no new official memorandum from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Department of Health or any related government agency about the change in public health policy.

Before this, officials from the DOH, IATF and the Department of Interior and Local Government have opposing statements about wearing face shields.

This caused confusion among social media users who aired their frustrations over their lack of communication with one another.

“They don’t talk to each other, ano?” one user wrote.

“Matatapos na termino niyo kayo kayo na lang hindi pa nagkakaintindihan,” another commented.

“Final na ba iyan? Mamaya pag labas ko may madaanan na police tapos bigla akong hinuli ah!” another user said.

Calls to lift the face shield requirement outdoors were renewed this year after some international health organizations recognized that COVID-19 can be airborne especially indoors.

Different instructions

It was DOH Undersecretary Leopold Vega who first announced in an interview with ABS-CBN about doing away with the face shields in outdoor spaces.

Vega noted that face shields are only required indoors, citing the higher risk of coronavirus transmissions.

“Ang face shields kailangan lang naman talaga ‘yan ‘pag nasa indoor ka, ‘pag nasa mall ka or ‘pag may interaction ka face to face inside. Kapag nasa outside naman, ang risk of transmission is very low,” he said.

Later that day, however, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo that the protocol on face shields was still in place.

“In so far as the DILG is concerned, required po talaga ang face shield, whether indoor or outdoor,” Malaya said.

He then stated that he has yet to verify with the health department about Vega’s remark.

“Narinig nga po namin yung statement ni Usec Vega, and I’m trying to find out from the DOH kung meron na silang pagbabago sa kanilang policy,” Malaya said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also echoed that the mandate on face shields has not been changed.

Vergeire even cited commercial establishments, public transport and terminals, places of worship, workplaces and enclosed public spaces as among the settings where face shields should be worn.

This was retracted again after Sotto posted the tweet the next day wherein he announced that Duterte agreed to calls that face shields should be used inside hospitals only.

However, prior to the Palace briefing, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles dismissed this and stated in an interview with CNN Philippines that the IATF has yet to issue an official order.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also later said that the health agency will make an appeal to Duterte about the use of face shields.

“Any layer of protection is better than less protection,” Duque said.

This is a developing story.