Philippines Approves Non-Mandatory Use Of Face Shields As Covid-19 Cases Fall

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to ease the mandatory face shield rule, which was first implemented in December 2020.

Face shields will be mandatory only in areas where there is a strict lockdown.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte says face shields will no longer be required in areas under Alert Level 1 to 3, easing the mandate more than a year after becoming one of the few countries in the world to require the plastic barriers against Covid-19.

In the memorandum released by the Malacañang on Monday, Nov. 15, protocols on the use of face shields in areas under different alert levels will be implemented immediately.

• For areas under Alert Levels 1, 2, and 3, the use of face shields is voluntary.

• Those under Alert Level 4, local government units (LGUs), and private establishments are given the discretion to mandate the use of face shields.

• The use of face shields is mandatory for areas under Alert Level 5 and granular lockdowns.

“The above protocols are without prejudice to the continuing mandatory use of face shields in medical and quarantine facility settings, and the required use thereof by healthcare workers in healthcare settings,” the memorandum reads.

On Nov. 8, Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos said Metro Manila mayors will be recommending to relax their face shield policy. Manila and Muntinlupa City were among the first ones to scrap their face shield mandate, while a number of LGUs also followed suit, including Iloilo City, Tarlac, Cebu, and Davao. 

On Nov. 5, the Department of Health said it is in favor of easing the use of the face shields in areas with low COVID-19 transmission but it needs more evidence to complete its recommendation to the IATF.

The DOH also said it is safe to forego the use of face shields, including in cinemas as long as minimum health standards and protocols are observed. This is following the relaxation of community quarantine restrictions after the country has seen a decline in its daily COVID-19 cases.

It was on Dec. 14, 2020 when the IATF first mandated the use of face shields on top of face masks whenever individuals go out of their residence, in an effort to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. The Philippines is reportedly the only country in the world that mandated the use of face shields during the pandemic.

According to Bloomberg, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend its use against Covid-19 because its “effectiveness is unknown at this time”, while the World Health Organisation says this equipment can be used for eye protection during outbreaks.

Duterte, on Monday night, also approved the health department’s recommendation for health workers to receive Covid-19 vaccine boosters and called on local governments to again ban kids in malls after a report that a two-year-old boy tested positive for Covid-19 days after going to a mall.

Daily infections have eased to fewer than 2,000 in the past few days.

In the same briefing, Duterte said the Philippine economy “can soon return to its pre-pandemic performance” after gaining traction last quarter on strong household consumption.

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