Final directive? Duterte retains face shield protocol after varying announcements from officials

June 22, 2021 - 1:07 PM
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Photo of President Rodrigo Duterte from his Talk to the Town on June 21, 2021 (PCOO/Facebook)

In the latest flip-flop on face shield directive, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to wear them in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

He announced this decision in his pre-recorded Talk to the People which was aired on Monday, June 21.

During which, Dr. Edsel Salvana, who is also a member of the health department’s technical advisory group cited the threat of the new Delta variant as a reason why the government should retain the policy.

“Sabihin ko rin po kasi ‘yong napag-usapan niyong face shields, the Delta variant is also 40 percent more infectious outdoors, 60 percent more infectious indoors,” Salvana said.

“So it would be nice po to have an extra layer of security na even if hindi naman required, the TAG (technical advisory group) will still recommend to continue to use face shields even outdoors, especially with the threat of the Delta variant,” he added.

Duterte agreed with Salvana that the Delta variant is a cause of concern. He also clarified that he did not announce the removal of the face shield protocol.

“When I mentioned about the face shield, I was only shooting the breeze with the congressmen, the members of Congress who were there. I never said with finality that we will do away with the face shield,” Duterte said.

“Now, I will agree with you considering that this D variant is very aggressive and it can proliferate in so much short period of time. We may experience a second wave much more serious than the first,” he added.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also earlier tweeted the protocol on wearing face shields hours before Duterte’s nation address was broadcasted.

“Acting on the advice of health experts and in view of the Delta variant, PRRD declared that the wearing of face shields, both indoor and outdoor, is still mandatory,” read the tweet.

As of writing, the Department of Health has detected 17 Delta variant cases from the 45 samples the Philippine Genome Center analyzed last week.

The Delta variant, formerly known as B1617.2, was first found in India in December 2020. It has now spread there, in the United Kingdom and in other countries.

Duterte also apologized for the confusion caused by varying announcements on the implementation of the standing face shield requirement.

He stressed that the policy on face shields and masks is a “small inconvenience” to prevent the further transmission of the variant in the country.

“It’s a small inconvenience, actually. I know that it is inconvenient really to be wearing the mask, adjusting it from time to time. But that is only a very small price to pay than rather gamble with doing away with it and courting disaster,” Duterte said.

Backtracking announcements

Prior to these announcements, Roque himself announced in a briefing on the same day that face shields are no longer required to be worn outdoors.

“So iyong mga nagtatanong, kailangan pa ba ang face shield? Ang malinaw po ganito ha: Hindi na po kinakailangan ang face shield sa labas, kasi hindi naman po inapela iyan ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Managing Infectious Emerging Diseases),” he said.

“Ang inapela lang ng IATF ay iyong pagsuot ng face shield sa loob kasama na po sa mga malls at iba pang mga commercial establishments at saka sa mga pampublikong transportasyon,” he added.

Last June 17, the presidential spokesman also announced Duterte’s order that face shields shall only be worn in hospitals.

He made this announcement after Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III tweeted that “the president agreed that face shields should only be used in hospitals.”

“Allowed us to remove ours! Attention DOH!,” the senator’s tweet read.

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

Due to the changing directives, some social media users, particularly the medical community, aired their frustrations over the seeming lack of communication among government officials.

“Kakasabi mo lang kanina hindi kailangang sa labas? Mag-usap kayo sa GC (group chat) please! Kung walang GC kahit GM (group message) mo na lang sa ibang officials,” pharmacist Arshie Larga wrote.

“Government’s wishy-washy position on the use of face shields is evidence that the ‘solid science’ it is based on is actually liquid,” said Dr. Gene Nisperos.

One Reddit user even shared a meme about it.

“Pabago-bago tayo ah, ano ba talaga,” the user wrote on Tuesday.

‘Just follow the existing protocol’

One Twitter user, meanwhile, suggested that others should continue using face shields over masks, citing the standing IATF rule.

“Face shields are still required when going out. Follow the IATF and not what Duterte or Sotto said. No final reso yet so better follow the protocol kasi baka magka aberya ka lang pag lumabas ka na walang face shield,” the user wrote last June 17. 

The inclusion of face shields in the national government’s mandated minimum public health standards is stated in IATF Resolution No. 88 released in December 2020.

“All persons are mandated to wear full-coverage face shields together with face masks, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable, or do-it-yourself masks, or other facial protective equipment which can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19,”  it said.