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Duque: Not yet time to drop face shields due to low COVID-19 vaccine coverage

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said the time is not yet right to lift the policy requiring the wearing of face shields in public areas, noting the Philippines’ low COVID-19 vaccine coverage so far.

This was after Manila Mayor Isko Moreno renewed appeals for the national government to stop requiring the use of face shields in public, saying it was high time to adjust pandemic policies. 

“Okay [ang] mungkahi ni Mayor Isko kung malaki na vaccination coverage natin (Mayor Isko’s proposal would be okay if we had a wide vaccination coverage),” Duque told GMA News in a text message.

“Hindi pa pwedeng tanggalin ang face shield policy (We can’t drop the face shield policy) for now when our two-dose vaccination coverage is a little over 2% due to still inadequate vaccine supply,” he added.

The Philippines has only vaccinated over 3.9 million people as of May 30, still far from the government’s target of inoculating 58 million individuals in COVID-19 hotspots by November. 

The inter-agency COVID-19 task force made the use of face shields mandatory only in December last year. 

Duque has repeatedly stressed that the use of face shields is backed by science, citing a study published in leading international medical journal The Lancet. 

“There are many scientific studies showing that face shields in combination with face masks and more than 1 meter social distancing provide a greater than 95% protection,” he said. 

For former Health Secretary and Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, wearing a face shield is no longer needed amid the health crisis.

“Hindi naman disposable 'yung face shield eh at karamihan ng face shield, ilang beses ginagamit. Naiiwan kung saan-saan, so personally sa pananaw ko, hindi na ganoon kailangan ang face shield. The others, it gives them a security, a sense of security,” Garin told reporters.

(Face shields are not disposable and usually, these are used many times. In my opinion, it should no longer be required.)

Garin said what the country needs is the wearing of face masks, mass testing, immediate isolation of COVID-19 patients, and vaccination.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, said the “evaluation of face shields is ongoing, but effectiveness is unknown at this time.”

Both local and international experts have also advised against the use of face shields as a substitute for face masks, with one US study showing that shields alone cannot prevent the spread of the virus. —Julia Mari Ornedo with Anna Felicia Bajo/KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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