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Face shields can be removed when outdoors — DOH exec

Face shields can be removed when outdoors since the risk of COVID-19 transmission in open spaces is low, the Philippines’ treatment czar said Wednesday.

Asked whether laborers who work outdoors are allowed to remove their face shields while on duty, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega acknowledged that the moisture that builds up on the shields may distract workers.

“‘Yung face shields, kakailanganin naman talaga ‘yan ‘pag nasa indoor ka, nasa mall ka, or ‘pag may interaction ka face to face inside,” he said during the  Laging Handa briefing.

(Face shields are needed when you’re indoors, in a mall, or having a face-to-face interaction inside.)

“Pero ‘pag nasa outside naman, kasi alam naman natin ang risk of transmission is very low, at lalong lalo na kapag naglalakad ka lang sa kalye o kaya nagtatrabaho ka, kasi makaka-affect ‘yung moist nito so puwede niyo tanggalin ‘yan,” he added.

(But when you’re outside, we know that the risk of transmission is very low. Especially when you’re walking along the street or working, the moisture can really affect you so you can remove it.)

Earlier this month, the use of face shields drew fresh controversy after Manila Mayor Isko Moreno urged the national government to rethink the policy requiring its use when outdoors

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III later maintained that Filipinos must continue wearing face shields since the COVID-19 vaccination coverage remains low. He also stressed that the use of shields is backed by science. 

Sought for clarification, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Vega’s statement “has always been the standing policy.”

Vergeire said Joint Memorandum Circular 2021-0001 states that face shields are required to be worn in enclosed public spaces, schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, public transport and terminals, and places of worship.

The same guidelines also indicate, however, that shields must be worn in “other public spaces wherein 1 meter physical distancing is not possible and there is gathering of more than 10 pax at the same venue at the same time.”

Bikers and other users of active transport, meanwhile, are not required to use face shields

Vergeire said local governments are also allowed to implement stricter measures within their locality.

Last year, the DOH said it was up to the government’s inter-agency COVID-19 task force to decide whether certain laborers like construction workers can remove their face shields

Vega stressed that face shields must still be worn indoors as “added protection” against COVID-19. — RSJ, GMA News