It is a “fallacy” to believe that wearing a face shield in public transportation could provide full protection from the coronavirus infection, according to President Duterte.
Addressing the nation over state television Monday night, the President said a face shield may only protect people from a “direct hit” of a cough from someone with the illness. The virus however could still travel and seep through the face shield even in an enclosed space like an air-conditioned vehicle, Duterte added.
“You know, you have to take into account physics. It’s an everyday equation for — for humanity, civilization, physics. Ang problema kasi nitong sabi na a shield, it’s a — we are talking of direct transmission, ‘yung there is a continuous and no gaps na papasok sa — tatama sa shield.. ang shield kasi would only protect you from a direct hit (The problem with the shield is, when we’re talking of direct transmission, there is a continuous and no gaps in the shield. A shield would only protect you from a direct hit),” he said.
“But if you are riding in a bus na aircon or open… ‘yung pag-ubo ng tao tapos ‘yung hangin sa — you know ‘yung sa bus ‘pag pumasok na ‘yung hangin dito — because the wind will guide the — kung saan ‘yung virus. ‘Pag dito siya dumaan, madala niya. But somehow, that — itong face na ito, I think it’s a fallacy to say na it will protect you from — in every environment (But if you are riding an air-conditioned or open bus, when a person coughs, the air blows inside the bus. The air will guide the virus and may hit you from the side. I think it’s a fallacy to say that it will protect you in every environment),” he said.
“It could be the aircon coming from the second seat would bring the — ‘yung hangin papunta doon sa likod. Ah hindi naman ma — that cannot be stopped by a shield. Maybe, ang mask talaga (It could be the aircon coming from the second seat would bring the air to the back. That cannot be stopped shield. Maybe a mask will really help),” he said.
The President commented about the use of face shield after some members of the government task force are split on the planned reduced physical distancing between commuters using public transportation.
Duterte said he would wait for the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the matter. The panel is expected to meet with health experts Tuesday to discuss concerns about the changing the distancing rule in public transport.
“I will just rely on your report and recommendation but make the visual diagram for the — itong so many meters taken away from the one-meter distance that we have been imposing,” Duterte told his Cabinet members.
The transportation department recently announced the new reduction in physical distancing in public transport starting September 14 following the approval of the IATF in line with the economic recovery efforts. The IATF decision however drew strong objection from health experts who were worried such rule might lead to a surge in coronavirus infections.
In the meeting with the President Monday, Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez agreed with the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) move to reduce the distancing inside public transportation from one meter to 0.75 meters while stepping up other health precautions.
Galvez, chief implementer of the government’s national plan against the coronavirus, said infection risk can be reduced in public transportation through wearing of masks, face shields, proper ventilation and avoiding crowds. He said “no talking, no eating,” and no answer of phone calls may also help reduce transmission of the virus.
In making a pitch for reduced physical distancing rules, Galvez also highlighted the importance of public transportation in reviving the country’s economy. “Kung wala po talaga ‘yung ano — ‘yung ano ‘yung vehicles and also ‘yung ano po natin, ‘yung tinatawag po natin na ‘yung transportation, we cannot recover po, Mr. President (If there are no vehicles, no transportation, we cannot recover Mr. President),” he said.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, however, insisted the one-meter physical distancing must be retained in public transportation to ensure public health. Año, attending the meeting through video conference, said he agreed with the health sector’s sentiment that reducing distancing measurement might lead to spike in coronavirus cases.
“Parang roller coaster na babalik na naman tayo sa pinagmulan natin. Magiging ECQ na naman or sana po talaga ito ay masusing pag-aaralan at science-based (It will bel like a roller coaster if we return to where we started, that we might go back to ECQ again. I hope this will be thoroughly studied and science-based),” Año said.
“Talagang kailangan makinig tayo sa experts kasi wala pa naman talagang science na sinasabi na ‘pag nag-violate ka sa less than one meter kung ano ang mangyayari. Puro mga studies tapos speculations pero hindi po siya science-based (We must listen to the experts because there is no science stating that what happens once you violate the less than one meter distance. These are studies and speculations but not science-based),” he said.
In the same meeting, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier presented a study by health experts that reducing the one-meter requirement at 50 percent ridership capacity could lead to 20, 580 cases per day.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque informed Duque that no one from the Department of Health (DOH) objected to the reduced distancing in public transportation when it was approved by the IATF during a recent meeting.
He said two “giants” in the Cabinet — the transportation and health departments — appeared to be at odds at the proposal. But he said the President will have the final decision on the matter once he has reviewed the scientific data presented to him.