Face mask and face shield: DOTr, DOLE, DTI issue memos ordering its use for commuters, employees

Published August 16, 2020, 8:45 AM

by Noreen Jazul

The face shield and the face mask — worn together — are now official safety accessories required to be used by commuters on all modes of transportation and employees in offices. 

The mandatory use of the face shield became effective August 15, while the use of the face mask when one is outside the residence was imposed months earlier.

The use of the face shield was imposed to add to the safety measures to curb the transmission of the coronavirus disease in the country after the number of cases soared by the thousands in the past week.  As of August 15, the Philippines recorded a total of 157,918 COVID-19 cases.

The “No face shield, no ride” policy is stated in memorandum issued by the 

Departments of Transportation (DOTr), Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Trade and Industry (DTI). It covers all public transportations sectors — from aviation to railways, road, and maritime.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is also advocating the use of face shields, citing data that it can reduce infection rate by 93 percent.

The DOTr advised the public to wear face shields that cover the eyes, nose, and mouth, instead of just the eyes like visors or goggles. It must also be worn together with a face mask, according to the DOTr.The “No Face Shield, No Ride” policy is implemented in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), and other areas where public transport is allowed.  

“Let us remember that no amount of protection is too much when it comes to health and safety, especially that we are battling an invisible enemy,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement on August 5, when the face shield policy was announced.

Safety in the workplace

Employees who are already reporting to work are likewise required to wear face shields in their respective workplaces.

According to the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 20-04 of DOLE and DTI, the face shield requirement “applies to all private establishments regardless of economic activity, including those located inside special economic zones and other areas under the jurisdiction of Investment Promotion Agencies, such as the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Clark Development Corporation, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport.”

Face shields must completely cover the face

Like in public transportation, face shields worn in workplaces must “completely cover the sides and length of the face,” as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Visor-type face shields shall not be allowed,” DOLE said.

Face shields should be worn with face masks at all times particularly when “interacting with colleagues, clients and/or visitors.”’

‘May be removed according to demands of work’

The memorandum also stated that face shield may be removed “according to the demands of the work or when the occupational safety and health of the employees so requires.”

According to DOLE, employers must provide face shields for their employees.

Dr. Guido David, a member of the UP-OCTA Research, in an August 8 interview with DZMM Teleradyo said transmissions often happen in offices.

How effective are face shields?

The use of face shields as protection against virus exposure has been recommended by several medical experts around the globe.

Dr. Eli Perencevich, an infectious disease expert and professor at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, in his opinion piece for medical journal JAMA Network, said face shields “appear to significantly reduce the amount of inhalation exposure of” droplet-spread respiratory virus like the influenza virus.

Citing a study on the efficacy of face shields against cough aerosol droplets from a cough simulator, Perencevich said face shields “reduce immediate viral exposure by 96 percent when worn by a simulated health care worker within 18 inches of a cough.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a pandemic preparedness expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told United States-based non-profit organization AARP that face shields also provide “more protection to the mucus membranes” of peoples faces where virus droplets can enter.

A good face shield

According to the WHO, face shields should be made of clear plastic, which provides “good visibility to the wearer.”

The face shield must also have an adjustable band “to allow good fit around the head and snug fit against the forehead.”

Preferably, WHO said face shields must be fog-resistant. 

WHO said face shields “may be reusable (made of material that can be cleaned and disinfected) or disposable.”

Suggested retail price of face shields

Following the increase in the demand for face shields, the Department of Health (DOH)  has set the suggested retail price for the product.

In department memorandum 2020-0345, DOH said all face shield products must be sold at a price range of P26-P50 per piece.

DOH said the price range which they set are based on local surveys and experts’ advice.