Distribution of Free Face Masks to the Poor Suggested By Former IATF Adviser

Dr. Tony Leachon says the President is receptive to the idea.

(SPOT.ph) The topic of face masks has been controversial since the beginning of the quarantine period. Rules—and sanctions—concerning the protective gear have been varied, to say the least (remember Howie Severino's detainment for not wearing a mask during a water break?). One thing we can all agree on is that it would be better if we all had access to it. Well, there's now a chance the government will supply protective face masks to urban poor communities for free.

The suggestion was made by Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the COVID-19 task force, during a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on July 15. According to the physician, the president and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III discussed how much it would cost to provide 20 million masks for Metro Manila—at the price they pegged, P15 each, the total would be P300 million.

"Akala natin hindi nagbe-behave ‘yong mga mahihirap. Pagkain nga walang mabili, mask pa kaya? They want to wear masks, we have to provide access," said Leachon during an interview on CNN's The Source. He noted that masks should be provided for free particularly to the urban poor communities where other preventive measures, such as social distancing, would be difficult to implement. "Hindi natin pwede ipaghiwalay-hiwalay 'yong nasa squatter [areas]. At least there's one protection: Naka-mask sila," added Leachon.

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The doctor and health reform advocate added that it would be best to push for preventive efforts alongside "curative" ones, meaning keep as many people as possible from even needing to go to the hospital for treatment.

Around five hospitals in Metro Manila declared full capacity for COVID-19 patients early this week. Leachon also noted that the preventive measures would cost less than having to treat patients.

Main image by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash; for illustrative purposes only.

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