Velasco urges Duterte to recall directive on mandatory use of face shields

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to recall government decision to require people to wear face shields as an added protection against COVID-19.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco- coat and tie

In a letter sent to Duterte on Monday, Sept. 20, Velasco cited economic and medical concerns to support his appeal. He said purchasing face shields poses an added financial burden to Filipinos who are already suffering from the adverse economic impact of the pandemic.

At the same time, Velasco aired serious doubts that face shields are effective in preventing the spread of infection. He cited medical research studies supporting his stand.

It will be recalled that Duterte had previously agreed to lift the order mandating citizens to wear face shields. He aired his decision when Senate President Vicente Sotto III brought up the matter during a visit in Malacanang.

However, Duterte changed his mind on advice by top health officials.

Sotto later linked the mandatory face shield order to the overpricing scandal on government’s procurement of face masks and face shields.

Velasco stressed that in the absence of solid medical proof that the use of face shield is effective against the transmission of the deadly coronavirus.

“May I humbly and respectfully recommend that the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Department of Health both under the Executive Department reconsider the mandatory use of plastic face shields for the general public (under IATF Resolution No. 88 and Joint Memorandum Circular 2021-0001 on the Clarificatory Guidelines on the Mandatory Use of Face Shields Outside of Residence for COVID-19 Mitigation, respectively) when going out of their homes or indoors, including in malls, commercial establishments, and public transportation,” Velasco told the President in his letter.

“The use of face shields has made little difference in protecting against the transmission of COVID-19 over the proper use of masks alone, and imposes an additional burden to poor Filipino families already reeling from the adverse effect of the pandemic on their livelihood,” he stated.

He noted that the World Health Organization, as well as the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend the use of eye protection, such as goggles and face shields, only for those providing direct care to patients with COVID-19.

Velasco said that studies conducted by physician-researchers of Wayne State University School of Medicine indicate that combining the use of face shields and masks made little difference over the use of masks alone.

Even in the Philippine context, Velasco said the same result on the doubtful efficacy of face shields is evident.

He cited an article by researchers from the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the country’s leading professional association of specialists in infectious diseases and microbiology, concluding that the use of face shields may help doctors and health care workers against splashes and sprays of blood or other bodily secretions, but does not give additional protection against respiratory aerosol such as those present in COVID-19 transmission.

Velasco endorsed the findings of the epidemiology experts and recommended requiring the use of face shields plus face masks, apart from PPEs, “only for enclosed spaces with high transmission of COVID-19 such as hospitals and quarantine facilities.”