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Return of face shield policy opposed

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A leader of the House of Representatives on Tuesday said the government should implement strict border control measures instead of re-imposing the mandatory wearing of face shields to directly address the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

“Mandatory face shield use would be an overreaction and exaggeration at this point or in the near future because there is no confirmed local transmission of the Omicron and there is no confirmed entry of any Omicron variant infected person,” Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera said in a statement.

She said the key targeted action that would “directly address” the Omicron threat right now and in the very near future are strict border controls, the inclusion of airports, hotels, and tourist transport vehicles as high-risk closed spaces.

Herrera said while the Philippines has not reported any cases of the Omicron strain so far, the government should not consider bringing back the mandatory face shield use as there is no strong scientific evidence proving that face shields offer significant protection from Covid-19.

“Dagdag inconvenience at gastos lamang ang hatid ng face shield sa ating mga mamamayan. Tama nang sa loob ng mga ospital na lamang ito isuot (Using face shields would only add up to the inconvenience and expenses experienced by the people. It’s enough for people to just use it in hospitals),” she said.

She noted that the Department of Health and other health authorities have not issued Omicron-specific clinical, diagnostic, and other medical guidance to hospitals and health care front-liners.

“The suggestion to reimpose mandatory use of face shields might be another example of premature elation on unnecessarily making daily life harder for Filipinos,” she said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) added Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy to the red list, according to a press statement from Cabinet Secretary and acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles on Sunday.

Already on the red list are South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique.

Prior to the declaration of the ban on Friday, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe were on the “green” list.

On Friday, the World Health Organization declared the Omicron variant of Covid-19 to be "of concern".

It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24 and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel.

Several countries have already imposed travel restrictions to and from southern Africa.

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