VERA FILES FACT CHECK: To use or not to use: How the govt’s face shield policy evolved

Within seven hours on June 21, Malacañang backtracked on its pronouncement on confining the required use of face shields indoors as part of health and safety protocols against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

During a midday press briefing, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said “what is clear is that face shields are no longer needed outside.”

But, in a tweet around 7 p.m., the spokesperson said, “acting on the advice of health experts and in view of the Delta variant,” President Rodrigo Duterte declared that wearing face shields indoors and outdoors “is still mandatory.”

Duterte confirmed this in his public address aired around 10 p.m. that day. He apologized to the Filipinos, saying the government has to “retain” the mandatory face shield policy given “the kind of aggressive infection” of new variants of the COVID-19 virus. Notably, he was not wearing a face shield during his address.

Almost a year after the government required individuals to wear the protective gear in indoor and outdoor settings, some lawmakers and local officials have called on local health experts to review the government’s mandatory face shield policy.

VERA Files Fact Check tracked the development of the government’s face shield policy, and how its directives changed — in some cases flip-flopped — over time.

A global team of public health experts convened by international nonprofit Meedan said there is “limited guidance for when or if the public should wear both face masks and face shields.”

The OCTA research group said it “supports” the government’s decision to keep the mandatory face shield policy, saying “the science suggests that face shields add about 9% additional protection” from COVID-19 transmission.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend the use of a face shield alone as an alternative to face masks. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Isko Moreno inaccurately cites US ‘CDC’ study on low effectiveness of face shields)

The World Health Organization said in its interim guidelines for face masks issued in December 2020 that a face shield “should not be considered as an equivalent to masks” in terms of the protection it provides from respiratory droplets, among the main modes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

However, the same guidelines suggested that face shields “may be considered as an alternative” for persons who are hard of hearing, as well as those with cognitive and respiratory impairment, keeping in mind that face shields are “inferior” to masks in preventing droplet transmission.


Sources

PTV Philippines Official Youtube Channel, PANOORIN: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque | June 21, 2021, June 21, 2021

Radio Television Malacañang - RTVM Official Facebook Page, Kumusta Po Mahal Kong Kababayan | Meeting on COVID-19 Concerns and Talk to the People on COVID-19, June 21, 2021

Business Mirror, DOH: Continue wearing face shields, Covid cases are still increasing, June 3, 2021

Rappler, Review sought for mandatory wearing of face shields in PH, June 9, 2021

Manila Bulletin, DOH says face shield an ‘added protection’ vs COVID-19, June 5, 2021

Timeline Sources

Meedan, About, Accessed June 25, 2021

Meedan’s Health Desk, How effective is it to use only a face shield to protect from COVID-19?, Updated June 18, 2021

Manila Standard, Face shield use science-based, says Palace, June 25, 2021

CNN Philippines, OCTA supports mandatory face shield policy, June 25, 2021

ANC Official Youtube Channel, Expert: Face shields provide additional 9% protection against COVID-19 | ANC, June 17, 2021

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guidance for Wearing Masks, Updated April 19, 2021

World Health Organization, Mask use in the context of COVID-19: Interim Guidance, Dec. 1, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

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