MANILA, Philippines — Greeted with shock and derision, President Duterte’s urging people in a televised address to disinfect used face masks with gasoline or diesel was just a joke, according to his spokesman.
Harry Roque Jr. shrugged off criticisms of Duterte’s remarks in his taped message aired Tuesday morning, which international news organizations presented as a trivialization of the global pandemic by the 75-year-old leader.
“What’s with you guys? The President has been with us for four years, and you still don’t know him. Joke only,” Roque said in Filipino.
He said Filipinos should know by now when the President is serious and when he’s not, or when he’s just being sarcastic about certain issues.
Roque said it’s Duterte’s intent to provide free face masks to all 100-million Filipinos as the country awaits the development of a vaccine that would eventually stamp out the COVID-19 contagion.
“He wants to give free masks – if not to all Filipinos – at least to a large number of Filipinos, especially the poor,” Roque said.
He promised to remind the President that – as per Department of Health instructions – face masks should never be reused or recycled.
But he said cloth masks are re-usable after proper washing, although medical experts have endorsed the use of N-95 and surgical masks, which they deem more effective in preventing infection.
During his taped message last Tuesday, Duterte again urged the public to wear masks, use alcohol, observe social distancing and proper hygiene to help prevent being infected by the virus.
He noted that the challenge to contain the virus remains difficult until a vaccine is developed.
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