MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin on Monday said the Philippine General Hospital can take hold of face masks and personal protective equipment that are reportedly stuck in a Customs warehouse.
In his personal Twitter account, Locsin he will raise the matter of the PPEs during a Palace meeting at 2 p.m.
“PGH and other frontline medical personnel are looking for PPEs. They are in Customs warehouse, tons of them. Go get them there. PGH is an arm of government and entitled to take them," he said.
The state-owned PGH earlier asked for donations of masks (both surgical and N95), 70 percent alcohol, face shields, and surgical gowns for its health workers.
The World Health Organization has warned that stocks of protective gear were rapidly dwindling as countries rushed to protect their supply of masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Friday, WHO Philippines announced that it has donated protective equipment for Filipino health workers amid the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
“WHO handed more than 2,000 kilos of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets to @DOHgovph today,” the WHO Philippines said on Twitter.
“The PPE sets, composed of gowns, gloves, masks, goggles, and alcohol-based handrubs, will support health workers in the clinical management for 200 severe patients for #COVID19PH,” it added in a post that showed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe in front of the boxes of equipment.
Pharmacies and medical supply stores around Metro Manila have run out of various kinds of face masks as Filipinos started panic buying face masks — first for the Taal volcano eruption and now with the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Department of Health has previously warned the public that face masks are for health workers and those who are immunocompromised. The Health Secretary himself said the able-bodied Filipinos should simply observe proper hygiene such as regular handwashing.
Locsin, meanwhile, said he had asked ambassadors "for tens of thousands" of test kits for the novel coronavirus.
“Only a few. We started with 2,000 test kits. And I asked [ambassadors] for tens of thousands—private or govt to govt—same problem China warned me about: without Customs clearance all impounded yet they are very perishable items. Also Health OK and worse only 4 authorized labs,” he said on Twitter.
Responding to a netizen who suggested using pork barrel to purchase supplies for PGH, Locsin said: "Now is not the time to be bitchy. Arrangements for PPEs and other equipment in large quantities on the way. I'd give up on Customs where China's mammoth rice donation just rotted. [Could've] gone to the poor if given to religious charitable institutions."