President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing the free distribution of masks to the public as new cases of COVID-19 surge. 

Duterte alongside several of his Cabinet ministers convened Monday (March 15) to discuss the government’s current action plan to tackle the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the Talk to the People press briefing, Duterte highlighted the need for the Philippine Government to provide free masks to the public to fortify compliance with existing safety protocols. 

Duterte shared that a lot of Filipinos reuse their masks, which is not advisable. He notes that there are people who can’t afford to buy new masks, which negatively affects the rate of compliance with established safety measures and protocols. 

“It’s the mask. I-ilang gamit lang ‘yan. ‘Yong iba luma na ang ginagamit because they do not have money to buy. We have to provide the mask for everybody. Kung ‘yung tao ay walang pera pambili ng mask, how do you expect compliance from him?” Duterte stressed. 

He tasked the Department of the Interior and Local Government to spearhead the distribution of free masks and to partner with LGUs to make the process faster.

In an interview with CNN’s The Source, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reminded local officials and the public of the importance of wearing face masks and face shields as well as compliance with safety measures. 

He says it’s the “strongest protection we can have” in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Besides the issue of masks and compliance, the briefing also featured a report from Vaccine Czar and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr regarding the country’s procurement of vaccines. 

Galvez says 1.4 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine are set to arrive in the Philippines this March. Meanwhile, 979,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be delivered late this month or early April. 

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