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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has made a “presidential policy” to ease the government’s face shield requirement by allowing its use only in hospitals, Malacañang confirmed on Thursday.

“The President did say that the wearing of face shield should only be in hospitals,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press briefing. “All I’m confirming is the President said that and of course what the President said becomes a presidential policy.”

Roque made the remarks, after Senate President Vicente Sotto III, in a Twitter post earlier Wednesday, said Duterte has agreed that the public should only be required to wear a face shield when they go to hospitals.

Sotto, during a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Tuesday, noted that the Philippines is the only country in the world requiring the use of face shields in public spaces.

Earlier, Manila Mayor Francis “Isko Moreno” Domagoso also called on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to lift its policy mandating the wearing of face shields in all public places “to lessen the expenses and problems of the people.”

Possible appeal from IATF

Roque, also acting as IATF-EID spokesperson, said the task force can still make an appeal to convince Duterte to reconsider his new policy on the use of face shield.

“IATF is recommendatory to the President. And when the President has decided, that’s the policy. This is without prejudice to IATF appealing possibly,” he said. “So, I think the possible move of IATF now is to appeal what the President said.”

He said the IATF-EID would meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss Duterte’s decision to let the public use face shield just in hospitals.

“Let’s await the further actions of IATF, if any,” Roque said. “I will be the one to personally raise this if IATF would want to appeal kasi (because) as it stands po, nagsalita ang Presidente (the President has already spoken).”

Roque said the IATF-EID might ask Duterte to continue requiring the public to wear face shield in enclosed public spaces, schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, public markets, public transport and terminals, and places of worship.

To remain in effect

Later Thursday, Roque said the use of face shield will remain in effect while waiting for Duterte’s decision on the IATF-EID appeal.

In a statement, he said the IATF-EID resolved to recommend to Duterte “the mandatory wearing of face shields in enclosed/indoor spaces of hospitals, schools, workplaces, commercial establishments (such as but not limited to food establishments, malls, and public markets), public transport and terminals, and places of worship.”

“While waiting for the President’s decision on the matter, the existing policy on the use of face shields remains in effect,” he added.

Based on science, the use of face shield on top of face masks gives an “additional protection” against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said in a press briefing with Roque.

On June 3, Roque likewise said there is a “scientific basis” that wearing of both face masks and face shields contribute to the substantial reduction of Covid-19 infections in the country.

The IATF-EID in December last year decided to make it mandatory for the public to wear face mask and full face shield in all public spaces to prevent the possible spike in Covid-19 cases.

The IATF-EID also issued advisory on the proper use of face shield. (PNA)