WHO says reviewing Philippine experience in use of face shields vs COVID-19

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2021 03:58 PM

Health workers and frontline employees of the University of Santo Tomas Hospital wear face shields while holding a protest along Espańa Avenue in Manila on August 30, 2021.
Health workers and frontline employees of the University of Santo Tomas Hospital wear face shields while holding a protest along Espańa Avenue in Manila on August 30, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said it is reviewing the "Philippines' experience" in using face shields as an additional layer of protection against COVID-19.

The WHO is "looking at the Philippine experience" in wearing face shields, but so far, evidence has yet to show that the added layer of supposed protection has helped the country in delaying the spread of the Delta variant, WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in an online press conference.

"It's interesting that we have been able to sort of delay the speed by which the Delta variant is spreading, but we don't know if the face shields are a contributory factor," the official said.

"While we are understanding all of these issues, it's best to look for evidence and make our decisions based on that," he said.

The Philippines is "one of the few countries advocating the use of face shields in addition to a mask" as protection against the virus, he said.

"The face shields are being used to reduce the likelihood of infection through the eyes and so that's not actually an additional layer [of protection]," Abeyasinghe said.

"Although it boosts the protection from poor wearing of mask practices," he said.

DILIGENCE OVER ADDED LAYERS

Abeyasinghe said the Delta variant - just like the original COVID-19 strain from Wuhan, China - spreads through aerosols.

"It is not an airborne transmission," he said.

The WHO official noted that a single face mask could protect people from contracting COVID-19 provided that it is worn "properly and consistently."

"You can wear 2 masks, you could wear 4 masks, but if you don't wear it properly or consistently, it will not provide protection," Abeyasinghe said.

"You don't need double masking. You don't need added layers. What you need is diligence in following public health standards," he said.

Several senators and local officials have been urging the Department of Health (DOH) to lift the requirement for the public to don face shields when going out, noting that several countries were successful in curbing the spread of COVID-19 even without face shields.

It has proven an extra cost to Filipinos struggling through the pandemic. 

In June, President Rodrigo Duterte said face shields should only be worn in hospitals, while Malacañang said that the extra layer is not required outdoors.

But after a week, the President changed his stance and said that face shields are required to be worn in public places, both indoor and outdoor.

A recent series of investigations at the Senate showed that the Philippine government has been procuring allegedly overpriced face shields since the pandemic began last year.

Duterte denied that there is corruption in the procurement of face shields and other pandemic supplies.