DOH urges LGUs to wait for IATF decision on face shields

Bonz Magsambol

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DOH urges LGUs to wait for IATF decision on face shields

FACE SHIELDS. Individuals wear face shields like headbands at a vaccination center in Quezon City on Monday, June 21, 2021.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says local orders to drop wearing of face shields are 'null and void'

After some local government units announced they were scrapping the mandatory wearing of face shields in their areas, the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, November 8, urged them to wait for the government pandemic task force decision on the controversial policy.

“Hintayin po natin ang ating IATF (Inter Agency Task Force) na magkaroon ng agreement (Let’s wait for the IATF to reach an agreement). We urge local governments to just hold their executive orders or issuances so we can all be uniform in our implementation and we are all aligned,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.

“Our experts will update the current review of evidence of this face shield use for this pandemic response,” Vergeire added.

The health spokesperson said that Department of Health (DOH) will meet with the government’s pandemic task force on November 11 to present its “updated” recommendation on the use of face shields. 

“We have committed to the IATF that by Thursday we will be presenting to them an updated recommendation for the use of face shields,” Vergeire said. 

Vergeire’s statement comes after Manila Mayor Isko Moreno issued an executive order on Monday, stating that the use of face shields would be “non-mandatory” in the city except for medical and hospital facilities. 

Before this, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on November 2 signed an executive order which specified that wearing of face shield would be voluntary in the so-called 3Cs – crowded places, close contact settings, and confined and enclosed spaces.

Meanwhile, Cebu City Acting Mayor Mike Rama on November 5 gave establishments authority to decide on whether they would require customers to use face shields indoors.

‘Null and void’

In a press briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that for now the policy on mandatory wearing of face shields remains.

“Ang desisyon ngayon ay ipatupad muna ang face shields habang pinagaaralan. Hindi naman sinasabi na hindi tatanggalin iyan, pero antayin naman natin ang desisyon ng IATF,” Roque said.

(As of now we are still enforcing the rule on the the use of face shields while it is being studied. We’re not saying that we’re not going to remove that, but let’s wait for the IATF decision.)

“Null and void for being in violation of an existing executive policy decreed by the President himself in the exercise of police powers,” Roque said.

Roque said that local orders to drop wearing of face shield are “null and void.”

Metro Manila Mayors will recommend to the government pandemic task force to lift the order of mandatory wearing of face shields except for some places that are critical.

In a statement on Monday, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority  Chairman Benhur Abalos said that the face shields can be removed except for areas such as hospitals, health centers, and public utility vehicles.

The public clamor to get rid of the policy resurfaces as the government’s purchase of “overpriced” face shields became the subject of marathon congressional hearings on the health department’s mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.

State auditors found out that the government bought face shields in April 2020 for P120 a piece, an amount which senators said was  “overpriced.”  Auditors also reported that, by yearend 2020, there were 484,000 face shields sitting idle in government depots.

The Philippines is only the country in the world that requires wearing of face shields in addition to face masks, when outdoors.

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.

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.