Velasco asks Duterte to reconsider mandatory face shield policy

Velasco asks Duterte to reconsider mandatory face shield policy
Residents wait for their turn to get a shot of Sinovac vaccine at the cinema area of a mall in Antipolo City on Aug. 24, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider the policy of requiring Filipinos to wear face shields outside of their residences, saying it made “little difference” in protecting people against COVID-19.

Velasco recommended to Duterte in a letter dated Monday that face shields be worn only in enclosed spaces with high transmission of COVID-19 such as in hospitals and quarantine facilities.

“The use of face shields has made little difference in protecting against the transmission of COVID-19 over the proper use of masks alone, and imposes an additional burden to poor Filipino families already reeling from the adverse effect of the pandemic on their livelihood,” the top House leader said.

Citing studies by doctors from the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Velasco said the use of face shields and masks together barely made a difference from using masks alone.

The study by Wayne State University School of Medicine doctors indicated that the “best protection” against COVID-19 is to use plastic face shields with surgical masks, but it also noted that this made “little difference” compared to using masks alone.

Meanwhile, the PSMID’s review of studies on the use of face shields with masks by the general public show that there is “very low quality of evidence” to support this, but suggested it anyway in areas with sustained community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Policy flip-flop

Velasco added that the mandatory face shield policy burdens poor Filipino families, who are forced to shell out money for the protective equipment instead of using it for their food, and that the face shields contribute to the “already worsening” garbage problem in the country.

It is not the first time that a congressional leader has asked Duterte to revisit the mandatory face shield policy, with Senate President Tito Sotto having done the same back during a meeting in Malacañang with the chief executive back in June.

Duterte then agreed that face shields should only be worn in hospitals — a policy directive that was never implemented as it was swiftly taken back by the president due to the presence of the highly-infectious Delta variant.

In recent televised addresses, Duterte has been recalling and defending this policy flip-flop.

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