MANILA (UPDATED)— Government said on Monday it would ditch requiring face shields in almost all public areas in areas under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and below.
Effective "immediately", the face plastic covers would be required only in areas under Alert Level 5, the strictest quarantine classification in the country, while local government units of areas under Level 4 can decide if use of face shields in public venues will be mandatory or not.
Wearing face shields is still required in public areas such as hospitals and quarantine facilities, a memorandum from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said.
Medialdea on Monday evening confirmed the copy of the memorandum signed by President Rodrigo Duterte that approved the recommendation of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to limit the use of face shields starting Nov. 15.
Duterte, in a taped public briefing aired later that night, said he's okay with ending mandatory use of face shields in public areas, but the wearing of face masks "stays".
"'Yung mask will forever remain, and it will be part of our day-to-day ... safety measure kasi matagal pa 'tong virus na nasa hangin lang," he said.
Some local governments like those of Manila, Davao City, and Iloilo City earlier lifted the face shield rule, even without the task force's decision, prompting questions on whether the move was valid.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has been quoted as saying that mayors need not wait for the IATF decision before junking the face shield rule.
But Roque said on Tuesday, "Hindi po pupuwede kasing nagkakaniya-kaniya sa panahon ng pandemya."
"Siguro po kung hindi batas ang pinag-uusapan, respeto na lang po sa ating Presidente dahil lahat naman po ng desisyon ng IATF ay desisyon ng Presidente," he said in a press briefing.
(We cannot go our own ways during a pandemic. Perhaps if we are not talking about the law, just show respect to our President because all decisions of the IATF are the decisions of the IATF.)
"Paano ngayon susunod ang mga mamamayan kung mga mayor mismo ay hindi sumusunod?" added the official.
(How can citizens obey if mayors do not?)
Government previously required face shields in all public areas, becoming the only country in the world with such mandate for all during the pandemic.
Duterte in September said the covering was no longer mandatory in open spaces and would only be required in areas that are crowded, closed and cause close contact.