MANILA, Philippines — The wearing of face masks only in hospitals is now considered a policy since it was President Rodrigo Duterte who made the decision, but the government’s pandemic task force can still appeal to this, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the President said face shields should only be worn in hospitals, as said by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Joel Villanueva.
“I can confirm what Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Joel Villanueva said earlier that the President did say that the wearing of face shields should only be in hospitals,” he said in a Palace briefing.
Roque said Duterte’s statement can be considered as policy.
“Ang [The] IATF is recommendatory to the President and when the President has decided then that’s the policy. This is without prejudice to IATF appealing possibly,” he said.
“I think the possible move of IATF now is to appeal what the President said and what was repeated to the public by the Senate President and Senator Villanueva,” Roque added.
Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega earlier said face shields can be removed when outdoors since the risk of COVID-19 transmission is low.
The DOH then added that the wearing of face shields only in specific settings “has always been the standing policy” of the agency.
In a text message to INQUIRER.net, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the health department can appeal the President’s decision. The issue will be tackled in an IATF meeting on Thursday, he said.
In December last year, the government’s pandemic task force required the public to wear both face shields and face masks at all times outside of their residences.
Recently, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno suggested dropping the mandatory face shield policy but this was opposed by Duque himself, as well as other government officials.
Duque, in a Senate hearing on Tuesday, said the government’s pandemic task force was not yet considering removing the use of face shields as a requirement despite calls to dispense with the requirement.
This means, for now, the use of face shields will remain mandatory as an “added protection” to the public while not enough people have been vaccinated.
Some doctors have been asking the government to rethink its policy on wearing face shields, saying that the protective equipment—particularly the hospital-grade variety—works only in hospital settings or in indoor and poorly ventilated areas.