(UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte said late Monday that he was making wearing of face shields voluntary in areas under the three lowest alert levels, ending the year-long discomfort of millions of Filipinos when leaving their homes.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea first confirmed the policy directive to reportr before Duterte's weekly address to the nation was aired close to midnight.
While voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 3, 2, and 1, face shields will remain mandatory in areas under Alert Level 5 and those under granular lockdowns. For areas under Alert Level 4, local government units and private establishments are given the discretion to mandate the use of face shields.
The use of face shields will also remain mandatory in hospitals, quarantine facilities, and by healthcare workers in healthcare settings.
Iloilo, Davao, Biñan in Laguna, Muntinlupa, and Cebu City have gone ahead of the national policy and scrapped the face shield requirement as early as last week.
The wearing of face shields on top of face masks in all public places was first made mandatory in December last year as the country prepared for possible spikes in COVID-19 cases after the 2020 Christmas season.
Filipinos have long questioned the utility of wearing face shields on top of face masks relative to the discomfort it brings, on top of the cost.
A Senate inquiry on alleged overpriced COVID-19 protective gear also revealed that the government appeared to favor a supplier of face shields that sold the plastic films at a premium. Authorities said this was due to thin supply at the start of the pandemic.
In September, President Rodrigo Duterte removed the face shield requirement in outdoor areas but kept it in places with high risk of COVID-19 transmission.