MANILA - Health officials on Monday urged the public to avoid panic buying of face masks and give way to health workers and those with existing illnesses.
Surgical masks have become scarce as more Filipinos sought to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The country on Saturday recorded its first fatality related to the new strain of virus following the death of a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan.
Drug stores' supply of the N95 mask, designed to protect against dust, was also depleted following the eruption of Taal Volcano last Jan. 12.
"Ang priority natin dito ay healthcare workers. Sila talaga ang humaharap sa mga may sakit, at 'yung matatanda na meron nang underlying medical problems," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told radio DZMM.
"Mahirap [maubusan ng] mask eh 'yung mga taong nangangailangan, baka lalo tayong magkaproblema sa huli."
A manufacturer of face masks in Bataan has committed to producing 400,000 masks per week and the Philippine International Trading Corporation is also seeking suppliers from abroad, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Aside from wearing masks, the public may avoid contracting the disease by frequent handwashing, according to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo.