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Sotto, Hontiveros question government insistence on requiring face shields
Senior citizens get inoculated with their first dose of Sinovac Vaccine at Mega vaccination facility in Marikina sports Complex on June 15, 2021. The government’s pandemic task force has allowed fully-vaccinated senior citizens in areas under general community quarantine and modified general community quarantine to leave their homes starting June 16.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Sotto, Hontiveros question government insistence on requiring face shields

(Philstar.com) - June 23, 2021 - 4:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — Two senators have questioned the pandemic task force's requirement to wear face shields on top of face masks despite what they called the lack of scientific basis for the policy.

This follows the confusion surrounding the mandatory wearing of face shields throughout the last week, with President Rodrigo Duterte finally deciding on Monday to retain their use both indoors and outdoors. The president's decision was announced on the same day his spokesman said that the policy would no longer apply when individuals are outside. 

"It is clear from studies that the use of face shields should be optional," Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Wednesday in a video message delivered in Filipino. 

"Face shields are effective for specific settings, such as jobs that have close contact with their clients or when traveling on public transport where it is often congested," she added. "But to insist on their general public use, that is no longer right." 

"I don’t know where the administration’s enthusiasm to force us all to wear face shields comes from," Hontiveros also said. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, said documents submitted by the Department of Health to the upper chamber cite studies that are "not conclusive" on whether using face shields on top of face masks offers added protection from coronavirus.

Sotto last week said that Duterte told him that face shields should only be required in hospital settings, a statement that led to talk of scrapping the requirement. The Department of Health also said then that face masks were only required indoors and in crowded areas. 

Sotto asked the DOH to provide IATF's basis for imposing the mandatory use of face shields during a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing held on June 15. Below is a briefer prepared by Sotto's office on the documents:  

The Lancet study cited by the DOH found that "[e]ye protection might offer additional benefits" but the briefer notes that it "did not provide an extensive discussion on the efficacy of face shield in containing the spread of virus." 

The study from India cited by the health department found that while face shields "may have reduced ocular exposure or contamination of masks or hands or may have diverted movement of air around the face." 

"[H]owever, the unique living circumstances of the workers minimized other sources of transmission," the report from Sotto's office quotes. "Further investigation of face shields in community settings is warranted.” 

The Lancet's study also cited the need for further global and randomized research on the benefits of varying "personal protective strategies." 

'Nowhere else in the world'

The documents submitted by the DOH, Sotto noted Tuesday night, also prove that no other government requires its general populace to wear face shields in addition to face masks. 

"It's confirmed even from DOH records, no other country mandates the use of face shields on top of masks. It's either or!" he said on Twitter. 

Per the briefer from Sotto's office, the DOH listed China and South Korea as shifting from masks to face shields, based on a June 2020 report from the Wall Street Journal. 

The same report notes that there is  "no consensus" on whether a face mask must still be worn under face shields and that experts disagree on whether a face shield offers enough protection from coronavirus on its own. 

The DOH also said Malta and the State of Oregon in the US require either a face shield or a face mask.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, the agency told the upper chamber, issued official advice that face shields be worn by staff who work in close contact with members of the public. Such workers include hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattoo artists, and studio photographers. 

In an interview with DZBB on Tuesday, Sotto asked: "Sinong genius ang nambola sa gobyerno? (Which genius fooled the government?)" 

"People cannot help but suspect something is wrong somewhere."

— Bella Perez-Rubio 

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