By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
As face masks continue to run out-of-stock in major pharmacies, supermarkets, and department stores, the Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday enjoined the public to practice judicious use of this protective equipment.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, in an advisory posted on DOH’s official website, said that the “public is enjoined to judiciously use masks to prevent shortage of surgical masks and N95 masks.”
Duque reiterated that “people in good health do not need to use face masks.” He added that the use of surgical masks is “only recommended for persons caring for the sick”; those who are with “respiratory infection/symptoms” such as coughing, sneezing and or fever; and for “healthcare and other frontline workers” such as those working in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and Philippine National Police (PNP).
N95 masks, Duque stressed, “must be reserved” for healthcare and other frontline workers who are attending to patients with respiratory infection or symptoms such as coughs and colds or patients under investigation (PUIs) for possible 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).
Duque explained that N95 masks are for people who are “entering rooms of PUIs or confirmed patients to provide care or clean/disinfect the environment, or obtain clinical specimens.” This type of mask should also be reserved for people who are “handling clinical specimens, soiled medical supplies or equipment, or come in contact with potentially contaminated environmental surfaces.”
“In all settings, masks should be used in combination with frequent hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand rubs or soap/water,” Duque said.
The 2019-nCoV continues to spark fear among Filipinos as number of monitored cases continues to increase locally and globally. Based on the 2019-nCoV tracker of DOH as of February 8, there are 267 persons under investigation (PUIs) in the country for possible 2019-nCoV including the three confirmed cases which involve Chinese nationals from Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the deadly virus.
Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergency Dashboard on novel coronavirus as of February 8, there are 34,822 confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV in 25 countries with 724 reported deaths.