(File photo)

MANILA – Filipinos may be required anew to wear face shields as many countries scramble to prevent the entry of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

This was recommended by the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases during a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night.

Despite the decrease in Covid-19 cases, Duque said there is still a need to prepare the healthcare system capacity for the "worst-case scenario," especially with the spread of "heavily mutated" Omicron variant in other countries.

"In case there will be a sustained high community transmission on a count of this possible Omicron variant entry in our country--let's take advantage of our low number of cases and prepare the health systems capacity, again for the worst-case scenario," Duque said.

The government, he added, will still reimpose the previous pandemic response in anticipation of a cases surge due to the newly detected Omircon variant.

"Even how minimal it would be, for as long as it would be complete the — at least what we know now — at least to prevent," he said.

Duterte said the government might require the public anew to wear face shield as an "added protection" against the virus.

"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 prudence or just dictate na (that) maybe we will restrict again," he said.

Duterte ordered the IATF to "sort out" the possible reimposition of face shield rule.

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año noted that the face shield requirement was not totally discarded as part of the Covid-19 response strategy.

Año said the policy on face shields was just integrated into the Alert Level System being imposed nationwide.

The use of face shields in those areas under alert levels 1 to 3 is "voluntary."

Local government units have the discretion to impose the requirement of a face shield when they are placed under alert lever 4.

While the use of face shields under alert level 5 is "mandatory."

"But of course, 'pag pumasok po yung Omicron at tumaas po yung alert level iniimpose po natin yan (once the Omicron variant enters here and the cases will increase, we are imposing it)," Año said.

Año, however, said this policy would "possibly change" if the Omicron variant would be officially detected in the country.

He said the DILG, through Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), will issue a stricter directive to strengthen the border control measures to make sure the country will remain free from Omicron coronavirus variant.

Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the preparations should always start from preventing the virus to enter the country.

During a special session of the global health body that started Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that "if another major surge of Covid-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe."

The WHO stated "the overall global risk related to the new VOC (a variant of concern) Omicron is assessed as very high." (PNA)