Leachon recommends supplying poor with free face masks

A former adviser of the country’s task force against the pandemic wants the government to supply the poor with free face masks.


Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser to the National Task Force (NTF) fighting the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) said a significant number of the underprivileged are turning out to be major transmitters of the disease.

“Ang poor ang cause ng local transmission natin (the poor is the cause of the local transmission) so we have to address this,” he said during an interview on CNN Philippines.

Prior to Malacanang’s declaration to keep Metro Manila under general community quarantine (GCQ), Leachon said he suggested this to President Duterte, with health experts presenting his proposals before the chief executive and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“If they want to wear masks then we have to provide them access. So dapat ilibre natin ng masks particularly sa urban poor (So we have to provide free masks particularly to the urban poor) because the middle class and the upper class can afford it,” said Leachon.

Leachon pointed out that using minimum health standards of using facemasks, handwashing and social distancing is part of “90 percent in arresting viral transmission.”

Based on talks with the poor in clinics and hospitals, Leachon lamented that they don’t have the means to provide protection for themselves.

“Akala natin hindi nagbe-behave yung mahihirap (We thought the poor only misbehave),” he said.

“Pagkain wala nga mabili, mask pa kaya (They can’t buy food, what more for masks),” the doctor lamented.

Aside from this, Leachon also suggested providing free tests for the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The doctor lamented that in the country the costs of tests are “variable and exorbitant” ranging from as much as P17,000 to as low as P2,500.

“In other countries libre ito (this is free),” he stressed.

Leachon also recommended that Metro Manila be placed under enhanced community quarantine for two weeks.

“Using the hammer and dance concept, just two weeks hammer it down rather than a conservative GCQ,” he said.

“Kaya ang suggestion ko nga dyan ay ECQ kaya lang mangangailangan ka ng SAP (I suggested ECQ but you will also have to provide social amelioration program),” he added.

The doctor expressed concerns over the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is already “alarming” as he reminded that in Southeast Asia the Philippines already has the most number infections and the least number of recoveries.

He reminded that in Cebu the number of COVID-19 cases dropped after undergoing ECQ.

“Because in Cebu the reproductive number was two then after three weeks according to the UP group it went down to 1.2. So therefore the ECQ worked for Cebu,” he said.