DOH: Wearing N95 face masks in Metro Manila unnecessary

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2020 03:14 PM | Updated as of Jan 14 2020 04:07 PM

MANILA- People in the Philippine capital and northern provinces need not hoard N95 face masks to protect themselves from the ashfall due to the rumbling of the Taal Volcano as a regular face mask will do, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

Residents living near the volcano are the ones who should wear N95 respirators as ashfall in these places are dangerous, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Laxamana told reporters in Malacañang.

“Dito sa mga areas like Metro Manila, Region 3, 'yung mga areas na naabot ng ashfall, puwede naman po tayong gumamit ng not necessarily the N95 but we can use the regular surgical mask. Hindi po gaano katindi 'yung ashfall so nag-panic lang po talaga 'yung mga tao nung nagbilihan ng N95,” she said.

(We don’t necessarily have to use the N95 masks but we can use the regular surgical mask. Ashfall here is not that bad so people just went into panic when they bought N95 masks.)

Inhaling ash could lead to cough and difficulty breathing. It could also irritate the eyes, the Department of Health said. 

Several stores reportedly ran out of N95 face masks after the Taal Volcano expelled gray ash and hot steam on Sunday.

In Manila, Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan said she received reports of profiteering from the calamity with face masks sold for P200 from P25 to P30 apiece before the eruption.

Laxamana urged people in Metro Manila to refrain from hoarding N95 face masks since those residing closer to the volcano need it more.

“Huwag po tayong mag-panic. Huwag na po muna tayo mag-N95 dito sa Metro Manila, ibigay na lang natin sa ating mga kababayan sa areas ng Batangas at Cavite,” she said.

(Don’t panic. Let’s give the N95 face masks to those who need it in Batangas and Cavite.)

She also assured the public that the health department has allotted N95 face masks for the provinces of Laguna and Quezon as weather predictions show that the wind may bring Taal Volcano’s ash to these areas in the next few days.

A 2-hour drive from Manila, the Taal Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines with a total of 34 eruptions in the past 5 centuries.