DOH insists on face shield use indoors

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — As government officials continue to debate on the use of face shield in the middle of the pandemic, the Health Department stressed that the protective gear still reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection, especially in enclosed spaces.

Health Spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday that based on studies, face shields, when coupled with face masks, provide up to 90% protection from the virus.

"We need to get back to the objective of why we have mandated this face shield from the very start. This has proven to be effective because it covers your whole face, your eyes, your nose and your mouth and it prevents the droplets from landing on your face," Vergeire said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease is appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to maintain the mandatory use of face shields, at least for indoor spaces like hospitals, schools, workplaces, commercial establishments (such as but not limited to food establishments, malls and public markets), public transport terminals, and places of worship.

On Wednesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the President had agreed that face shields should be used only inside hospitals, but this was prior to the IATF meeting that discussed the issue. There is still no written order revising previous guidelines on the protective gear.

READ: IATF to recommend use of face shields inside hospitals, other enclosed spaces 

"Ito na ang pinaglalaban natin ngayon na dahil merong pronouncement ang World Health Organization (This is what we continue to insist, because of the WHO pronouncement) that [COVID-19] can be airborne in enclosed spaces, all the more that we need face shields in enclosed spaces because it adds to the protection," Vergeire added.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez shared the same view.

"May added value siya kasi unang una hindi natin mahawakan yung ating mga mata dahil andoon ang face shield," he told reporters.

[Translation: It has added value. Because first of all, we would refrain from touching our eyes since we are wearing a face shield.]

"Nakikita natin na nung sinimulan natin sa mass transport 'yan sinimulan natin sa mga work building at workplace, nakita natin talagang may gamit din siya," he added.

[Translation: When we started requiring it in mass transport, work buildings, and workplaces, we found it useful.]

Disinfect face shields after use

Vergeire also explained the importance of cleaning face shields after every use or leaving them under the sun or outdoors for airing to reduce the risk of transmission.

"Araw araw yan pag ginagamit natin, kailangan niliinis rin po natin iyan ng disinfectant natin tapos ibibilad sa araw o 'di kaya let it stay outside your house para mahanginan," Vergeire said. "Hindi pwedeng nagamit nang hindi nalilinis."

[Translation: When you use it everyday, you should clean it with a disinfectant and sun dry it or let it stay outside where the air keeps flowing. You cannot use it without cleaning it beforehand.]

She stressed that people can remove their face shields when they are not in a crowded place outdoors and when a one-meter physical distancing is being observed. But it must still be worn immediately after eating in restaurants and other public places that require direct interaction.

Vergeire added the public must not compare the Philippines' progress in vaccination and pandemic response with other countries, since there are still a lot of months to go before much of the country's population can be given COVID-19 shots.

Duterte has yet to give his final order on wearing of face shields. Its use was made mandatory in December 2020.