Protection overkill

August 14, 2020

Personal protection should not only be effective; it should also be practical.

True, we should not let our guard down against the pandemic, but such vigilance must be tempered with a healthy dose of pragmatism.   

Thus, we find some personal protective gear duplicitous or redundant; therefore, they are costly and wasteful, something we cannot afford during this period of pandemic when resources are scarce.     

And so we fully agree with and strongly support Sen. Imee Marcos in calling on the government to modify its mandatory requirement on commuters and employees to start wearing face shields in addition to face masks starting Saturday.

"It could be localized or voluntary, but mandatory is an overkill. Which other country has imposed face shields and made their use with face masks mandatory?" Marcos said.

She also cautioned the government against profiteers taking advantage of the 22019 coronavirus disease pandemic in the guise of increasing health protection.

"Identify the importers and local suppliers of face shields and find out if they have any connections with officials in the health, transportation, labor, and trade and industry departments who might profit from their domestic sale," the lady lawmaker said.

"Suddenly, we already have SRPs (suggested retail prices) for face shields, but no official public guidelines on product quality and proper labeling to protect consumers. Are they for single or multiple use, how are they to be cleaned, are materials inflammable, what precautions must the user take?" she asked.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that wearing a face mask alone "may exacerbate a physical or mental health condition, lead to a medical emergency, or introduce significant safety concerns".

"Besides the sheer discomfort, wearing a face shield over a face mask might suffocate those with medical conditions like high-blood pressure, heart ailments, or asthma? How long before office and factory workers can take a break after long hours enduring a lack of oxygen?" Marcos asked.

"If the virus is indeed airborne, face shields with open edges may be of little use in workplaces that are enclosed and where the air that circulates is recycled," she  added.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment  said wearing of face shields apart from face masks in workplaces would be required beginning August 15, as it tapped employers to provide face shields for their workers.

"Effective August 15, you will not only use face masks, including face shield. So, that is the new protocol today," Labor Sec.Silvestre Bello III told the reporters in Antipolo City.

Covid-19 transmission is not only limited to the nose, he said, and could also affect the eyes.

Bello said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease  has proposed that employers should purchase face shields for their employees.

"The IATF's proposal is for the employes, after all, it's just one time––you can only buy once, it's not too heavy for them," he said, noting that employees who do  not comply with the protocol would not be allowed to go to their workplaces.

The DoLE chief said employers are liable for non-observance of the health measure in the workplace and might cause the closure of the establishment.

"Those who will use the smoking area, one person at a time. Two is not allowed)," he added.

Poor families and vulnerable sectors need not worry about complying with the health and safety protocols against Covid-19 as the government on Wednesday launched a community distribution of free washable face masks to contain the pandemic.

Dubbed as "Bida Solusyon: MaskVIDA (Mask for Vulnerable and Indigent; Delivered and Available) laban kontra Covid-19", the campaign of the Department of Health seeks to provide about 30 million free face masks to Filipinos.

During the launch at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City, Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said the program seeks to boost the efforts of the both national and local governments to combat the pandemic while providing livelihood to others.

"Proper wearing of face mask reduces the spread of the virus by 85 percent,” Duque said.