PH lifts face shield requirement in areas under Alert Levels 1-3

The Philippine government will no longer require the use of face shields in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Monday, November 15, almost a year after it was first implemented. 

The COVID-19 task force (IATF) made the decision Monday, November 15, making face shields "voluntary" in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, which includes Metro Manila now under Alert Level 2.

In areas under Alert Level 4, "local government units (LGUs) and private establishments are given discretion to mandate the use of face shields." For November 17-30, the only area under Alert Level 4 is Catanduanes.

"For alert level 5 and granular lockdowns, the use of face shields in community settings shall be mandatory," said the IATF resolution.

Duterte approved the IATF recommendation also on Monday.

Weeks prior, “many” members of the IATF had reportedly been in favor of removing the face shield mandate. In a Monday, November 8 briefing, vaccine chief Carlito Galvez, Jr., confirmed that “majority” of IATF members were in favor of making face shields voluntary and requiring them only in hospitals and high-risk areas. 

Within a few days in June, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that face shields would only be used in hospitals and indoors, only for the Palace to change tune, which meant that face shields would be required both indoors and outdoors again.

The rule was tweaked again on September 22, after Duterte announced that face shields would no longer be required outdoors. 

Local government units had already changed their face shield policies ahead of the IATF resolution. Iloilo City was among the first to suspend the implementation of the face shield rule. Davao City, where Duterte’s daughter Sara is mayor, made face shield use in crowded or enclosed spaces optional, while giving establishments the option to still impose face shield use.

Cebu City followed suit, allowing indoor and enclosed establishments to decide if they wanted to require face shield use indoors. Cebu Province, meanwhile, abided by the national government and stopped requiring face shield use outdoors. 

Manila City, the country’s capital, had nixed the mandatory use of face shields outside of medical facilities. 

Face shields are personal protective equipment that covers the user’s face, partially or fully. Up until November 2021, it has been mandatory in the Philippines since December 2020 to wear both a face shield and a face mask when leaving one’s home.

While the Philippine government has insisted on the efficacy of face shields in preventing the spread of COVID-19, studies have questioned its capacity to protect a person from respiratory droplets, through which COVID-19 is usually transmitted. Neither the World Health Organization nor the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended face shields as a policy. 

Some studies have also argued that face shields, when used outside of medical settings, may increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. – Rappler.com