(photo from pna.gov.ph)

Wearing face shields on top of face masks is voluntary but may be required by commercial establishments and employers, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he recognized face shields would provide an additional layer of protection against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and new variants, such as the Omicron.

However, Duterte said he would leave it to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to decide on reimposing the policy on the use of face shields.

“Right now, the question is will there be any changes? I don’t know. Let’s wait. Kasi may (There’s) Omicron, we will have to see where it goes. We will have to monitor developments. But right now, (the) status quo is voluntary siya (it’s voluntary),” Nograles said in an interview over ANC’s Headstart.

Currently, face shields are voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3.

In areas under Alert Level 4, the face shield policy is left to the discretion of local government units (LGUs) and private establishments.

The mandatory face shield policy remains in areas under Alert Level 5 and in areas that are closed, crowded, and where close contact (3Cs) is likely to occur, such as hospitals and other medical facilities.

“Based on our latest IATF resolutions, employers and establishments may require face shields for the protection of customers, or their clientele, or their employees,” Nograles said.

While the IATF-EID has yet to decide on the policy on the use of face shields, he reminded the public that face masks are still required and will remain the norm.

“Establishments may mandate it (face shields). But for sure (in) health care settings, it is mandated. Pero ‘yung face mask, mandated ‘yun (But the use of face masks remains mandated),” he added.

The Philippines has yet to detect a case of the new highly-mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus but has imposed tighter travel restrictions to prevent its entry into the country.

In a meeting with the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 officials and medical experts in Malacañang, Duterte urged the IATF to “sort out” the reimposition of the face shield rule.

“I would suggest to the task force to make a statement – whether or not really to – ‘pag magdating itong Omicron na ‘to (if the Omicron arrives) since we have a depth of data dito sa ano (of this). In the meantime, it(‘s) prudence or just dictate (that) maybe we will restrict again,” Duterte said.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the use of face shields is not mandatory despite the threat posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“The WHO has right along said that this virus is not airborne. It’s close-contact transmission and that is why we emphasize that what is important is the physical distancing, and face masking, and hand hygiene. If we can ensure that those minimal requirements, those minimal public health measures are complied (with), we can ensure that people don’t congregate in closed settings, the requirement for face shields, probably at this point in time is not mandatory. Because as I said, we are still looking and understanding the transmission dynamics of the Omicron variant,” WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said. (PNA)

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