By Genalyn Kabiling
There is no need yet to compel all Filipinos to wear face masks despite the entry of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) in the country, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Duque explained that protective masks are recommended for people with cough, cold, and flu to prevent them from passing the infection to others, as well as for health workers directly dealing with patients.
“Hindi tama iyon, hindi kailangan (That’s not right. It’s not necessary),” Duque said over government radio last Friday, when Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar asked if face masks should be now a must for all Filipinos amid the risk posed by the 2019 nCoV ARD.
“Kahit na wala pa iyong novel coronavirus pero mayroon kang sipon, lagnat, ubo, eh mas maganda magsuot ka ng mask para hindi ka makahawa. Again, hindi lang ito patungkol sa novel coronavirus, kung hindi pati sa mga ibang mga mikrobyo o ibang virus at bacteria. So hindi naman tama iyon, lahat pagsusuotin ng mask (Even before the novel coronavirus, it’s prudent to wear masks if you have colds, flu, or cough to avoid contaminating others. Again, this is a precaution for other microorganisms, viruses and bacteria, not just for novel coronaverisu. So it’s not correct to force everyone to wear masks),” he said.
Duque maintained that healthcare workers should be given priority to wear masks to avoid getting sick themselves.
Employees in other offices do not necessarily have to put on masks unless they have flu-like symptoms, he added.
“At ang mga priority diyan, iyong mga ating mangangalaga sa mga ospital – iyong mga doktor, iyong mga nurses, med techs, midwives – iyan ang dapat pina-prioritize natin kasi sila ang haharap mismo doon sa mga may sakit (Priority should be given to hospital personnel including doctors, nurses, med techs, midwives. They should be given priority because they will be attending to sick people),” he said.
“Dahil wala naman tayo sa ospital, naglalakad tayo sa mga opisina natin, walang dapat ipangamba. (Since we are not in the hospital, we are in our offices, there is nothing to worry about),” he added.
Duque instead advised the public to practice good personal hygiene, especially the regular washing of hands, drink water and vitamins, and stay healthy through good nutrition and exercise. He also suggested people with flu-like symptoms to avoid crowded places.
Andanar sought the clarification from Duque after Palace employees and visitors were reportedly be required to wear face masks before entering Malacañang.
“Nakatanggap po kami ng letter ngayon sa Malacañang na kailangan lahat ng mga empleyado at bisita na papasok ng Malacañang ay nakasuot ng mask. Pero is it a must na lahat ng Pilipino magsuot ng mask ngayon? (We received a letter in Malacanang that employees and visitors entering Malacañang must wear masks) For the sake of clarity lang po,” Andanar asked Duque.
The Presidential Security Group (PSG) earlier directed its personnel to wear face masks to protect to protect them from the 2019 nCoV. Certain protocols for Palace visitors are also being drafted by the PSG.
“In view of the current threat brought by 2019nCoV, all PSG personnel on duty at Malacañang complex are hereby required to wear face mask as precautionary measure against the spread of said virus,” PSG chief Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra said.
The PSG has recommended to the Internal House Affairs Office the indefinite suspension of museum tours in Malacañang. This is a preemptive measure to ensure that the seat of government is secured from this biological threat,” Niembra said.