“Dispense the shield but not the mask.” With these words, the President has now lifted the mandatory wearing of face shields in almost all parts of the country, especially those in Alert Levels 1, 2, and 3. Face shields, however, may still be worn voluntarily depending on the individual, but face masks must still be worn at all times in all public spaces, as long as COVID-19 is still around.
This came in a week marked by a drop in the COVID-19 positivity rate in the country, with the data as of Nov. 16, 2021 showing only 849 new cases. This is one of the lowest tallies since December of 2020 and the first time in 10 months that the new daily COVID-19 cases dropped below 1,000.
Generally, this is good news especially for the business sector, which is counting on the upcoming holiday season to boost sales and reverse losses. Malls are now implementing longer operating hours, movie houses have started welcoming patrons, even amusement centers are packed with families who want to have some fun after a dreary and anxiety-filled year.
With the relaxed atmosphere, it seems that some parents have forgotten that the invisible virus is still in the air. News recently revealed of a two-year-old child allegedly contracting the virus after a visit to the mall. There is still wisdom in doubling efforts to stay safe, to wear a mask (or a shield if preferred), and to physically distance from others. A trip to the mall, though good for mental wellbeing, is really not advisable if it is not for an essential matter. And what is a two-year-old doing inside a mall?
The face shield may or may not contribute to the low number of new COVID-19 infections but it will still be used in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Alert Level 5, granular lockdown, and medical and quarantine facilities. For areas under Alert Level 4, the IATF defers to the local government units (LGUs) and private establishments whether they want to require the use of face shields.
While there is no “forever” with face shields, what may be with us for a longer period of time is the face mask. Compared to a shield, a face mask has been scientifically tested and effectively proven to protect a person from contracting the virus. The President even admitted that a face mask may become part of our day-to-day safety measures since the virus, which is airborne, will be here for a long time.
With the current situation, the country seems to be treading on the right path. As COVID cases go down, alert levels may also drop in cities. The President wished that “it will stay this way” and stressed that it is up to the citizenry to make “healthy choices” to ensure that cases will not rise again.
A Christmas season without face shields? We wouldn’t have imagined that scenario and this could be credited to the collective cooperation of Filipinos when it comes to getting their vaccine jabs. This may not be the “victory” that we are all anticipating for but dumping a piece of plastic that reminds us of the pandemic is enough reason to celebrate (and please, celebrate responsibly!).