Given the looming presence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant Omicron, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III emphasized on Monday, Nov. 29 the added layer of protection that face shields will provide for the public.

Some people in Divisoria, Manila are no longer wearing face shield on Nov. 8, 2021, the same day the City of Manila scrapped the face shield policy except in hospital and other medical facilities. (Photo by Noel B. Pabalate)

Duque said that the entry of the Omicron variant into the country is no longer a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”.

“Papasok iyan (It will enter) just as we have experienced with Alpha, Beta, Delta, among the more compelling variants of concern,” he told the President during his meeting with health experts and Cabinet officials on Monday evening.

The health secretary stressed the need to enhance the prevent, detect, isolate, treat and reintegrate (PDITR) strategy and mentioned three major interventions that should be followed by the public. Number one was the enforcement of compliance to the minimum public health standards (MPHS).

Duque mentioned that he does use face shields and reiterated its use in the so-called 3Cs context which includes closed spaces, crowded areas, and close contact settings. He added that this should be done since the transport sector has increased the carrying capacities of Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs).

“I think now with the threat of this Omicron variant it will be an added layer of protection that will really be good for the public,” he said.

Duque then stated that the government must maintain the trajectory of its vaccination rate. He said the the government has successfully launched the three-day massive vaccination rollout and that it needs to really widen and increase the vaccination coverage to reach population protection.

“Of course, the first milestone by the end of December 31st, we hope to be able to completely jab 54 million Filipinos and then by February of 2022, we should be able to realistically achieve 77 million Filipinos to be completely inoculated,” he said.

Duque then explained the importance of strengthening and preparing the health system’s capacity for the worst case scenario, in case there’s going to be a sustained high community transmission on account of the possible entry of the Omicron variant. He added that it’s best to prepare while COVID-19 cases are low. .