By Genalyn Kabiling
Do-it-yourself gear against the new coronavirus may not provide 100 percent protection but could be a “stop-gap measure” amid the global shortage of such equipment, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Tuesday.
As the nation grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe admitted that homemade alternatives could provide “some degree” of protection for the users and pressed for the acquisition of “larger quantities” of protective equipment for health workers.
“Unfortunately we are in a situation where there is a global shortage of masks and PPE and so we have seen in many situations people using do-it-yourself kits. The issue with that is that they are not 100 protective but they will provide some degree of protection,” he said during the “Laging Handa” public briefing over state-owned People’s Television network Tuesday.
“Under the present circumstances, any protection will be better than no protection,” he added.
With the limited supply of protective gear, some groups have resorted to creative ways to make their own face masks using fabrics, and other alternative protective equipment. Do-it-yourself tutorial videos have been posted on social media in recent days.
Manage use of existing PPE, buy larger quantities for health workers
Abeyasinghe has appealed to the private sector to help boost the supply of protective equipment for health workers who are running out of such gear in the front lines.
He noted that the WHO has advocated that face masks should be reserved for front line health workers for their protection from the coronavirus. He said if health workers are falling sick, “there will be no one to provide support and care for the sick people.”
“Our call is for everybody in the private sector to help support the government’s efforts in procuring and supplying personal protective equipment so that healthcare workers can feel protected and secure so they can do their job and care for COVID-infected patients,” he said.
“In the meantime, it is unfortunate but people have to adapt and do use do-it-yourself kits. WHO does not encourage this but this is a stop-gap measure as we address the global shortage,” he added.
According to Abeyasinghe, WHO remains committed to support the Philippine government in trying to gain access to protective equipment for health workers as well as rationalize the use of existing PPE.
“We have to work on twin fronts: we are helping health workers better manage the existing PPE so that we reduce wastage but at the same time we recognize that there is a limited supply and so we need to try to access larger quantities of PPE to deal with this ongoing outbreak,” he said.