Senate inquiry called for use of face shields in relation to COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday called for a chamber inquiry into whether face shields really work to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

The Senate leader had objected to said government policy that just this week President Rodrigo Duterte asked about when he retained his mandatory indoor and outdoor wear.

He essentially spared Duterte – who gave the final say – criticism and instead took aim at the “so-called experts” and added: “Now I know why the handling of the pandemic is not good.”

Health authorities have insisted that face shields provide additional protection against COVID-19, especially with recent developments on the Delta variant.

Sotto’s Senate Resolution 757 would direct the Committee of the Whole to investigate the use of face shields, according to a News5 report. He said that although the health department has submitted documents on supposed global studies, none have proven conclusive.

“For the marginalized and the poor, the face mask is very expensive for something that does not offer protection against the virus,” Sotto added. “Our people should instead invest in a proper mask which is scientifically proven to protect them from the virus.”

During last week’s committee hearing, the Senate leader asked health officials to also hand over a list of countries that mandate face shields. And while he said there were nations like China, South Korea, and the United States, to name a few, there was no need to use it.

Sotto further noted that the Delta variant, or the one first seen in India, has been detected in 74 countries but none have mandated the wearing of face shields.

The number of cases of the said variant in the Philippines has since risen to 17.

Quoting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sotto added that “face shields are not as effective at protecting you or those around you from respiratory droplets. Face shields are only an alternative for people for whom it is not advisable to wear a mask”.

While the investigation is said to be conducted “in aid of the legislation,” it remains to be seen whether that would prompt pandemic task force officials to recommend Duterte drop the policy.

Face shields in the Philippines were first made mandatory in December 2020.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they would consider calls to drop use when COVID-19 vaccinations reach significant numbers of the population.

So far, more than 2.1 million Filipinos have completed their vaccine doses against the government’s target of 50-70 million this year. Some 6.4 million, meanwhile, received their first dose. — Christian Deiparine, with reporting by Marie Ann Los Baños/News5

Norman D. Briggs