By Genalyn Kabiling
A Bataan-based company will supply five million face masks mostly for health workers for the months of March and April amid efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez announced Wednesday night.
To boost the country’s supply of protective items, Lopez said they have sourced two million surgical masks for this month and another three million for next month. The trade department plans to seek additional supplies for the health workers and the public in the coming months.
“Aside from what the DOH (Department of Health) is getting from various sources, we’re supplying DOH and the public by talking to the supplier based here in Bataan and we have made arrangement that they will supply the Philippines two million face masks for the rest of March, and another three million for April,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“We will have another request to increase the preposition and allotment for the Philippines since we recognize that even these numbers are not enough to provide all Filipinos,” he added.
Out of the March supply of face masks, he said 300,000 masks have been delivered to the health department while 100,000 more will be supplied on Thursday.
Lopez said the “bigger quantity” of face masks is forthcoming after a delay in the local supplier’s previous commitment of 1.6 million face masks.
The country’s trade chief also made clear that the bulk of the supplies will be delivered to health workers fighting in the front lines against the coronavirus outbreak.
“Ngayon ginawang 5 million. Ngayon pa lang natin makikita itong parating na bigger quantity (Now it is 5 million. We now see the upcoming bigger quantity of masks),” he said.
“Even looking at this quantity, naka-prioritize pa rin ito sa DOH at Red Cross for health workers. ‘Yung ma-allocate sa drug stores kaunti na lang po (Even looking at this quality, it will be prioritized for the DOH and Red Cross health workers. The allocation for drug stores will be small),” he said.
As of Wednesday, the country has recorded 202 confirmed cases of new coronavirus in the country with 17 deaths.
The country is currently under a state of public health emergency and a state of calamity following the rapid surge in the number of coronavirus infections.
The supply of face masks has been reportedly been running low as many people purchased the item as a protection against the coronavirus.
The government has repeatedly appealed for the judicious use of face masks in the country.
Masks are recommended for people who have flu-like symptoms to avoid infecting others as well as health workers providing care to sick patients, according to health officials.
Recently, the government has offered tax incentives to encourage companies to increase their production of face masks in the country. Face mask manufacturers could enjoy income tax holiday and duty-free importation of their capital equipment for the next four years.