DOH: Wearing of face shields in enclosed spaces ‘has been the policy’

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday, June 16, clarified the government’s policy on wearing of face shields, saying it is not required outdoors but only in enclosed spaces. 

“This has always been the standing policy,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in a Viber message. 

Vergeire, however, noted the government coronavirus task force has allowed local government units to implement stricter measures within their jurisdictions. 

As indicated in the Joint Memorandum Circular 2021-0001 on the Clarificatory Guidelines on the Mandatory Use of Face Shields Outside of Residence for COVID-19 Mitigation released January 2021, here’s the list of places where wearing a face shield is mandatory:

  • enclosed public spaces
  • schools
  • workplaces
  • commercial establishments such as but not limited to food establishments, malls, and public markets
  • public transport and terminals
  • places of worship
  • other public spaces wherein 1 meter physical distancing is not possible and there is a gathering of more than 10 people at the same venue at the same time.

Vergeire issued the statement after Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said during a press briefing that people can drop face shields when outside of their homes.

“‘Yung face shields, kakailanganin naman talaga ‘yan ‘pag nasa indoor ka, nasa mall ka, or ‘pag may interaction ka face to face inside,” he said during the Laging Handa briefing on June 16.

(Face shields are needed when you’re indoors, in a mall, or having a face-to-face interactions inside.)

“Pero ‘pag nasa outside naman, kasi alam naman natin ang risk of transmission is very low, at lalong lalo na kapag naglalakad ka lang sa kalye o kaya nagtatrabaho ka, kasi makaka-affect ‘yung moist nito so puwede niyo tanggalin ‘yan,” he added.

(But if you're outside, because we know the risk of transmission is very low and also because moisture builds up when walking or while working outside, you can take that shield off.)

In December 2020, the government imposed the mandatory wearing of face shields “whenever they go out of their residences.” The task force resolution though did not specify what can be considered as outdoor places. 

Prior to this, the government in August 2020 only required the wearing of face shields in the workplace, public transportation, or when entering enclosed commercial establishments.

After half a year of being required to wear face shields, Filipinos are asking the government to rethink the policy. 

Lawmakers have also called for a review of the face shield requirement, saying it's "anti-poor." Some of them say the Philippines is the only country that requires it.

Both the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not have recommendations on making wearing face shields a policy.

Amid calls to scrap the policy, the DOH maintains that wearing both a mask and a face shield, coupled with observing physical distancing, can prevent COVID-19 transmission by as much as 90%. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.