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Discordant voices

As of yesterday, Malacañang and the Department of Health could not agree on the policy regarding the use of face shields. Palace spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte believes face shields must be used only in hospitals. Health Secretary Francisco Duque, on the other hand, said the requirement for the use of face shields outside homes remained in place.

The confusion started Wednesday, after Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said face shields need not be used outdoors if they interfered with work. He did not specify what those work activities might be.

Vega is the COVID treatment czar and heads the One Hospital Command while Duque chairs the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases. The IATF was set to meet last night to discuss the policy on the use of face shields.

Opponents of the policy point out that the Philippines is the only country that requires the use of face shields against coronavirus infection. Such plastic face shields have been commercially available in certain countries including the Philippines before the pandemic, but mainly for use against oil spattering during cooking.

Proponents, on the other hand, say the face shields are useful in preventing droplets spread during sneezing or coughing from hitting the face of another person, particularly the eyes. This can be especially useful in mass transportation facilities and in those long queues for rides where physical distancing is no longer observed. Proponents also point out that the shields discourage frequent touching of the face, which can spread infection if the hands are not properly sanitized.

Whatever the government decides, it should announce the final policy quickly and clearly. Violation of COVID health protocols can lead to a person’s apprehension and even a stint in police detention. Police, for their part, nead clarity before they face complaints for carrying out a policy that is no longer supposed to be enforced.

The discordant voices in this basic health protocol is a sorry manifestation of the disorganization in the response to the COVID pandemic. It leaves people with the most basic question of who’s in charge of the response.


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