Duterte’s ‘gasoline’ prescription to disinfect masks may be just a joke – Vergeire
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte might have been joking when he advised Filipinos earlier this week to use gasoline to disinfect reusable masks against the coronavirus, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday.
Vergeire also reminded journalists “to be responsible” in providing information to the public during times of fear and uncertainty such as pandemics.
Duterte said the government was planning to distribute free masks to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
He advised using alcohol or a popular brand of disinfectant to sanitize these masks for reuse.
“Soak it in gasoline or diesel. That son of a bitch COVID won’t last,” he added. “That’s true. If you want disinfection, look for gasoline. Soak your hands. Just don’t do it inside your house.”
‘You know how it is’
Vergeire said Duterte was referring to reusable cloth masks, and was joking when he advised using gasoline to disinfect them.
“You know how it is when the President speaks so maybe it’s just one of his jokes, especially for gasoline,” she said.
Duterte spoke during a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary government body that oversees the government’s response to the health crisis. The meeting was broadcast on Tuesday morning by government television.
Vergeire clarified that unlike those made of cloth, surgical and N95 masks were meant for single use.
“You shouldn’t wash [them] because if you do it would no longer be effective against filtering viruses. It should be thrown away within eight hours of use or if it is already soiled,” she said.
At the end of her regular press briefing on Wednesday, Vergeire stressed the importance of giving only accurate information to the public, especially when most of them were vulnerable.
“All of us are scared, all of us are worried, all of us are bothered. So it will not help them if we give them wrong information,” Vergeire said.
Last month, Vergeire said that part of the communication strategy of the Department of Health (DOH) was to provide the public with “rapid, reliable and accurate information” given the tsunami of speculation and misinformation, especially on social media.
Without mentioning US President Donald Trump by name, Vergeire cited as an example his suggestion to inject bleach as a way to combat COVID-19.
“That’s coming from a trusted official of government, and you will mention this kind of thing, definitely those people who really believe in government might follow this practice, which is wrong,” she said. “It can be very disadvantageous to the health and safety of an individual.”
This is not the first time the DOH had to correct false claims made by officials.
Earlier, the DOH repeatedly warned against the practice of “tuob” (steam inhalation) as it “may aerosolize the virus.”
Despite the warning, Cebu City still spent P2.5 million to purchase a thousand tuob kits.
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