Review sought for mandatory wearing of face shields in PH

Lawmakers on Wednesday, June 9, urged the Department of Health (DOH) to review the government's policy of requiring individuals to wear face shields when outside their homes, saying that the policy is "anti-poor."

During the House committee on good government's third hearing on the alleged red tape in the processes of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the DOH, Anakalusagan Representative Mike Defensor questioned the government's policy on wearing face shields, as the Philippines is the only country that requires it.

"Sa WHO (World Health Organization), hindi na po sinasabi na kailangan ang face shield. Ang dami na pong nahuli, may doctor pang nahuling nagba-bike dahil hindi naka-face shield. 'Yung face shield na 'yan dapat nating tanggalin," Defensor said.

(The WHO doesn't say that face shields are needed. Many have been apprehended, including a doctor who was riding a bike, for not wearing face shields. The policy should be abolished.)

"Sa mga mahihirap po, napakamahal niyan. Napakahirap po na ire-require natin 'yan. Sa lahat ng bansa, tayo lang po ang nag-re-require niyan," he added.

(For poor individuals, face shields are very expensive. It's difficult to require them to wear it. Among all countries, only the Philippines requires it.)

Buhay Representative Lito Atienza echoed the same sentiment, saying that a "serious" study is needed to prove that face shields add another layer of protection against COVID-19.

In response, Dr. Melissa Guerrero of the DOH's pharmaceutical division said that they will review the policy. "We can review the evidence," she said.

Guerrero was present in the hearing to respond to questions on approval of medical drugs in the country.

What WHO, CDC guidelines say

According to the WHO, face shields are designed to "provide protection from splashes of biological fluid" and that in the context of COVID-19, face shields are used by healthcare workers in hospitals, together with other personal protective equipment, as they treat patients.

The WHO added that "current laboratory testing standards only assess face shields for their ability to provide eye protection from chemical splashes." COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through droplets.

However, the WHO specifies that face shields can be used as an eye protection against respiratory droplets, in conjunction with face masks, specifically medical masks. 

Meanwhile, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that face shields are "not as effective at protecting you or the people around you from respiratory droplets." It added that it cannot be used as substitute for face masks.

Both the WHO and the CDC do not have recommendations on making wearing face shields a policy.

The lawmakers' call on Wednesday comes after Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno last week urged the national government to scrap its policy of requiring Filipinos to wear face shields outside their homes. This, however, was thumbed down by the Malacañang and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The national government first imposed the face shield requirement in December 2020, in addition to wearing face masks in public.

While a survey released in February showed that nearly all Filipinos are compliant with the policy of wearing face masks, only around 6 in 10 individuals adhere to the face shield requirement.

There have been debates about the efficacy of face shields in preventing COVID-19 transmission but the DOH has defended the policy, saying that wearing both a mask and a face shield, as well as observing physical distancing, could prevent COVID-19 transmission by as much as 90%.

Despite the mandatory policy of wearing face shields and face masks, the Philippines still experienced a surge in COVID-19 infections earlier this year. On April 2, COVID-19 cases in the country peaked at 15,310.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has 1,286,217 confirmed infections of COVID-19, with 1,210,027 recoveries and 22,190 deaths. Of the total cases, 54,000 are active or currently sick. – Rappler.com

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.

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