Sotto questions DOH's basis for mandatory face shield rule

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2021 03:40 PM

Sotto questions DOH's basis for mandatory face shield rule 1
People wearing face masks and face shields walk along a footbridge in Quezon City on June 17, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday questioned the health department's basis for mandating the use of face shields, hours after reading the agency's summary report on the matter. 

Sotto also concluded that the Philippines is the only country in the world requiring the use of face shield in the public, citing the Department of Health (DOH) briefer, which he later on shared to Senate reporters. 

“It is confirmed, even the brief sent by DOH proves no country in the world mandates the use of face shields on top of the face mask. It's either or in most countries. Other countries, mask only!” the lawmaker said.

The DOH report according to him, contained the following documents:
 

  •  A study from “The Lancet” – a family of journals on medical studies and research 
  •  A study from India
  •  List of countries mandating the use of face shield

The Lancet study was based on May 3, 2020 data which, according to his office, underlined the following:
 
“Data suggest that wearing face masks protects people (both health-care workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses, and that eye protection could confer additional benefit,” the briefer read.

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“However, none of these interventions afforded complete protection from infection, and their optimum role might need risk assessment and several contextual considerations,” it added.

The study in India, meanwhile, was also conducted in May last year. Community workers who were “assigned to counsel asymptomatic family contacts” of COVID-19 positive patients participated in the study. 
 
Sotto's briefer stated: “Face shield may have reduced ocular exposure or contamination of masks or hands or may have diverted movement of air around the face… however, the unique living circumstances of workers minimized other sources of transmission."

"Further investigation of face shields in community settings is warranted. Again, this study is not conclusive," it read.

A public health expert this week said due to the threat and local presence of COVID-19 variants, face shields could serve as an "extra layer of protection." 

This came following the confusion in face shield use among government officials last week, who said different things amid mounting criticism. 

 

The policy was only clarified when Malacañang said its use would be mandated indoors and outdoors due to the Delta variant, the strain which experts believe caused the surge of infections in India. 

But President Rodrigo Duterte, in a taped meeting Monday night, said there was no finality in his previous statement regarding the use of face shields.

FACE SHIELD POLICY IN OTHER COUNTRIES 

On the other hand, a June 16, 2020 article by the Wall Street Journal regarding the mandatory use of face shield said that both China and South Korea “PPE is starting to shift from masks to shields," citing an infectious diseases expert. 

Malta has also set a standard on the use of face masks and visors or face shields
 
The state of Oregon in the United States has likewise issued its own policy on the use of face masks, covering, or face shields.
 
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom's official advisory in using face shields states that it should “be worn by staff who work in close contact with members of the public, such as hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattoo artists and studio photographers.”
 
Asked on the possibility that some businessmen were lobbying for its continued use for profit, Sotto said it was "possible." 

“Maaari. People cannot help but suspect something is wrong somewhere," he pointed out, but noted that he has yet to receive concrete information about the scheme. 

What he has been hearing, he said, was mere “public suspicion.”
 
Senator Risa Hontiveros also maintained that wearing of a face shield should only be optional considering that a number of studies stated its effectivity in protecting oneself from COVID-19 infection in enclosed areas.
 
“Malinaw naman ayon sa mga pag-aaral, na dapat optional lang ang paggamit ng face shields. Epektibo ang face shields para sa mga specific settings, tulad ng mga trabaho na may close contact sa kanilang mga kliyente o kaya kapag nagbibiyahe sa mga pampublikong sasakyan kung saan malimit ay siksikan,” Hontiveros explained. 

(It is clear according to studies that face shield use should be optional. It is effective in specific settings such as in workplaces, places of commute, and where crowding is possible.) 
 
“Pero para ipilit pa para sa general public use, hindi na tama 'yan,” she added. 

(But for one to insist it should be used by the general public, I don't think it is right anymore)

The country has so far tallied 1.367 million COVID-19 infections, over 52,000 of which remained active. 

The virus already killed 23,809 in the country, more than a year since the pandemic reached it.