The face shields issue

The face shields issue

President Duterte showing off his face shield to the media

While the political environment is heating up, let’s pause and look at the use of face shields, among the basic health protocols previously imposed, as Metro Manila and other areas have gone down to more relaxed restrictions.

This week. Malacanang said commercial establishments and employers have the option to order the mandatory use of face shields amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved Resolution 149 Thursday, ratifying the recommendation of its technical working group to allow businesses and employers to use their discretion in the wearing of face shields.

During a virtual press conference, acting Presidential Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the voluntary use of face shields was “without prejudice to employers still requiring their use for their employees or workers and/or customers in their respective premises.”

“Employers can require their employees to wear face shields in their workplaces and private establishments can require their customers to wear face shields. That is within their discretion,” Nograles, also the IATF-EID spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila mayors will leave the decision of the restriction on children below 12-years old to the IATF.

In a resolution, members of the Metro Manila Council, composed of the 17 mayors in the National Capital Region, stated that the IATF was in the best position to decide on the mobility restriction on minors ‘considering it has the necessary scientific and empirical data as well as the health, epidemiological, and pediatric experts.”

“All the 17 mayors signed this document and recommended the mobility restrictions on minors below 12-years old to the IATF for its evaluation and consideration,” said Benjamin Abalos, MMC chief and concurrent chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

On Monday, Duterte approved the IATF-EID’s recommendation to lift the mandatory use of face shields in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3.

We know that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also issued a memorandum detailing the voluntary use of face shields in places with a relatively low COVID-19 alert level.

People residing in places under Alert Levels 1 to 3 have the option to use face shields on top of their face masks as an added protection against COVID-19, according to the memorandum.

For areas under Alert Level 4, local government units and private establishments are given the discretion to maintain or remove the wearing of face shields policy.

However, the use of face shields in community settings remains mandatory in areas under Alert Level 5 and granular lockdowns.

The latest face shield policy is without prejudice to the mandatory wearing of face shields in “medical and quarantine facility settings” and by “health care workers in healthcare settings.”

On Dec. 14, 2020, the IATF-EID issued Resolution 88, mandating all persons to wear full-coverage face shields on top of face masks in all public spaces to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

In June this year, Duterte ordered the public to wear face shields only in hospitals but later decided to keep the IATF-EID’s original policy following the presence of the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

He later announced in September this year that the use of face shields would be limited to the so-called 3Cs, or the closed and crowded spaces, and close contacts.

The MMC came up with the recommendation following a meeting on Thursday when they reviewed and discussed the guidelines allowing children to go outdoors and enter malls.

The MMC meeting was made on the heels of reports that a two-year-old boy was diagnosed with COVID-19 after going to the mall.

“There was a two-year-old boy allegedly infected with COVID-19. But we still don’t know where he got the infection,” said Abalos in a press briefing.

Abalos said the endorsement of the decision to the IATF was to further weigh in on the issue through the medical experts’ opinion because “the safety of our citizens is at stake here.”

“We have to defer to the wisdom of the IATF as well as the opinion of those in the medical field. We should seek balance on the physical and mental health of our minors,” he said.

The National Economic and Development Authority noted that in the past few days, big mall operators had a significant rise in patronage from 20 percent last year to around 60 percent-80 percent recently, owing to the increase in venue capacity and relaxation of age restrictions, particularly with respect to minors.

Abalos earlier appealed for parental responsibility to those who are bringing their kids to the mall, noting that those below 12 years old are still unvaccinated.

Minors have been allowed to go out of their homes and move around under Alert Level 2 as the government opens up more establishments for the economy to recover.

Metro Manila is under Alert Level 2, which means there are no age restrictions for people leaving their homes.

To date, only children aged 12 to 17 years old are included in the government’s vaccination program where they are given Pfizer and Moderna jabs. (ai/mtvn)

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