Gov't to distribute 20 million free face masks to the poor

The government is set to distribute 20 million free masks to the poor as a precaution against the coronavirus infection.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on August 2, 2020. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The planned distribution of free masks came after President Duterte reverted Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan to the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for the next two weeks to limit the spread of the infection.

"The guidelines for minimum health standards will also be strictly enforced and intensified while giving twenty million face masks for the poor," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

With the return to MECQ of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, Roque said work and quarantine passes will be reimposed to minimize the movement of people.

He said local government units have also been ordered to step up the localized lockdown strategy and the implementation of Oplan Kalinga. The program involves the confinement of coronavirus patients who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms at government-run isolation facilities to limit the transmission in households.

Under the MECQ guidelines, the government requires strict home quarantine in all households. The movement of residents shall still be limited to accessing essential goods and services, and for work in permitted offices and activities.

Other MECQ restrictions include suspension of public transportation, prohibition on certain mass gatherings, suspension of face-to-face classes, and limited operations of shopping malls and other businesses.

The reversion to MECQ of Metro Manila and nearby provinces came after the medical community called for tougher restrictions to prevent the collapse of the country’s healthcare system.