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IATF policy on face shields unchanged despite officials' comments

IATF policy on face shields unchanged despite officials' comments

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:58 p.m.) — The government’s task force on pandemic response has yet to issue a resolution to loosen the requirement of wearing face shields in public, its co-chair said Thursday.

But, according to Malacañang, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday that face shields should only be required in hospitals and that this may become the new policy. 

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Thursday that te Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will tackle the government’s policy on wearing face shields in a meeting this afternoon,

“We’ll run this through IATF,” Nograles told CNN Philippines’ “The Source” Thursday morning. He said that although government officials have indicated the policy can be relaxed, there is no official order yet to do so.

“The IATF hasn’t issued a resolution or policy yet. Perhaps, this afternoon after the IATF meeting, we’ll have more definite answer from IATF because we have to discuss it among members of the IATF plus our medical experts,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

‘IATF may appeal’

In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the pronouncements of senators, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III, that the chief executive had agreed that the use of face shields should only be required inside hospitals. 

“It appears the president mentioned a new policy,” Roque said.

“All I’m confirming is the president said that. Of course, what the president says becomes presidential policy,” he added.

Roque said the IATF, chaired by the DOH, may appeal the president’s decision to keep the wearing of face shields as a requirement in enclosed spaces such as workplaces and establishments. 

Roque as well as Health Secretary Francisco Duque III previously defended the policy requiring face shields when out in public. They said that the policy was based on science, with Roque saying wearing a face mask and face shield was almost as good as being vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If the IATF decides to appeal, then we will appeal. Otherwise, we follow PRRD's directive,” Duque told Philstar.com in a text message. 

IATF recommendations require the president's approval to become policy but he usually follows the task force’s suggestions.

Treatment czar: No need to wear face shields everywhere

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, who also serves as the COVID-19 "treatment czar", said Wednesday that people can opt to remove face shields when outside.

As a response, the DOH, through its spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire, said individuals are not required to wear face shields outdoors and that this has been the government’s “standing policy.” 

She said face shields are to be worn only in “specific settings and situations” which include enclosed public spaces, workplaces, commercial establishments, and public transport.

Government officials have faced calls to ditch the use of face shields on top of face masks, but they have insisted the plastic coverings provide additional protection against COVID-19. The DOH claimed that wearing a face shield, together with a mask, and following physical distancing rules can decrease risk by more than 90%. 

Early in June, Duque said the country could not yet remove the face shield policy due to the low inoculation coverage in the country.

The United States Center for Diseases Control and Prevention is not recommending face shields as a substitute for marks, saying these are not as effective at protecting people from respiratory droplets.

Since December, the government has been requiring individuals to wear face shields on top of face masks whenever they leave their homes.