By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday called on the public to continue wearing face masks to minimize the spread of Covid-19, saying he would try to buy as many as possible to distribute to Filipinos who could not afford them.

“Ngayon, kung wala kayo, I will try to buy as many as I can afford kung kaya ko, ibigay namin iyan sa inyo libre but wear it,” Duterte said in a meeting with Cabinet officials aired Tuesday morning.

A study by data analytics firm YouGov and the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London showed that 91 percent of Filipinos wore masks whenever they went out. The Philippines was second to Singapore, which had 94 percent of its population consistently wearing masks outdoors.

Decontamination = further contamination?

Duterte claimed masks may be reused, as long as they were disinfected with alcohol or Lysol and hung dry.

“Maski na gamitin mo siguro iyan ng dalawang beses okay man lang kung i-sprayan mo lang ng alcohol pagkatapos. Huwag iyong ini-i-spray mo at isuot mo kaagad. Iyong pagkatapos ng araw, hang it somewhere, i-sprayan mo lang ng Lysol if you can afford it,” the president said.

Duterte quipped that those without alcohol and Lysol could try the soaking face masks in gasoline.

“Iyong wala, ibabad mo ng gasolina o diesel, p*****g ina Covid na ‘yan. Hindi uubra ‘yan diyan. Totoo. Kung wala kayo — if you want to disinfect, maghanap ka ng gasolina. Ibabad mo lang iyong kamay mo. Layo mo lang kay baka — huwag sa loob ng bahay ninyo,” he added.

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention said that filtering facepiece respirators (FFR), such as N95 masks and the like, are not approved for routine decontamination.

Decontamination methods, it said, should be evaluated for their ability to retain the following: filtration performance; fit characteristics achieved prior to decontamination; and safety of the FFR for the wearer (e.g. by inactivating SARS-CoV2).

Additionally, the CDC said the inhalation of gasoline odor may cause asphyxiation in enclosed, poorly ventilated, or low-lying areas.

On the use of cloth face masks, the CDC said they should be washed after each use with a bleach solution.

“A cloth face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to other,” it said.

‘Congratulations, Philippines!’

Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday acknowledged the international study which showed that Filipinos were among the most consistent mask wearers in the world.

“Habang pinag-uusapan natin ang mga masks, ‘Congratulations, Philippines.’ Siyam sa sampung Pilipino ang nagsusuot ng mask kapag sila po ay lumabas ng kanilang mga bahay,” he said in a virtual presser.

The government had often pointed fingers to the public’s “complacency” to health protocols when addressing the cause of the spread of Covid-19.

As of July 21, the country has recorded 70,764 Covid-19 cases.