As many students in Vietnam returned to school for the first time in three months on Monday morning, a debate has erupted over the rationality of a requirement for them to wear see-through plastic face shields as a precaution against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
For many localities in Vietnam, including such major cities as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang, May 4 was the back-to-school date after a three-month COVID-19 break.
Following the prime minister’s latest directive on the disease prevention and control, schools in Ho Chi Minh City have installed more faucets for hand washing and made students wear face masks as protective measures.
Some schools, including those in Binh Thanh District and District 11, even took an extra precaution by asking students to wear transparent plastic face shields, which are normally used by healthcare workers to protect themselves from respiratory droplets that can carry pathogens.
“Our school intends to let the students make their own face shields or tell them to buy the protective equipment for themselves,” a leader of a high school in Binh Thanh District told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The extra precaution, however, has raised concerns from parents.
Nguyen Thanh Tam, a parent residing in District 11 whose child is in ninth grade, told Tuoi Tre that his child said they felt stuffy, short of breath, and awkward to look at the blackboard while wearing the shield.
“I felt worried hearing that,” Tam said.
Regarding the issue, Dr. Truong Huu Khanh, head of infectious diseases and neurology at Children’s Hospital 1 in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City, told Tuoi Tre that it is unnecessary and inadvisable for students to wear face shields.
“Face shields are only for those who directly take care of patients, or make face-to-face contact with sick people,” Dr. Khanh said.
“Meanwhile, [as] students all sit in the same direction [in classrooms], there is no use [in wearing face shields].
“Face shields are only suitable for students when they play [during break time]."
Dr. Khanh warned that wearing face shields for long hours can affect students’ visibility, resulting in unclear vision, eye strain, and potentially causing harm to eyesight.
“It is not to mention that the plastic shield may break while the children play, leading to unwanted incidents,” Khanh warned.
Vietnam has confirmed 271 COVID-19 cases so far, with 39 remaining active and no documented death.