MANILA — The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 said on Thursday it would recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte to widen the use of face shields.
Malacañang and 2 senators earlier in the day said Duterte agreed that face shields should only be worn in hospitals. "What the President has decided, then that’s the policy," said his spokesman Harry Roque.
But in his latest statement, Roque said the IATF "resolved to recommend" to Duterte the mandatory wearing of face shields in "enclosed/indoor spaces of hospitals, schools, workplaces, commercial establishments (such as but not limited to food establishments, malls and public markets), public transport and terminals, and places of worship."
"While waiting for the President’s decision on the matter, the existing policy on the use of face shields remains in effect," he added.
Face shields could offer an additional 9 percent of protection against the novel coronavirus, said Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, a professor of biology and theology at Providence Colleges in the US.
"When you're outside, the additional 9 percent may not be as important. But if you are inside, especially in a crowded space, the additional 9 percent may be important," he said in a Palace press briefing earlier in the day.
"In those areas that are undergoing [COVID-19] surge, I would recommend--in high risk areas, the 9 percent may be important," added Austriaco.
The health department had said face shields may be removed when outdoors, but must still be worn in closed spaces.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government said it was against the removal of face shields in open-air settings.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso were among the politicians who have been urging the national government to scrap the mandatory wearing of face shields in public areas, saying the Philippines is the lone country that requires the additional protection on top of face masks.
But Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs the IATF, rejected these pleas, noting the policy is backed by science.