WHO not recommending DIY face masks, PPEs but says better than nothing

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 12:48 PM

MANILA — With face masks sold out in local stores because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipinos have resorted to making their own at home. 

Photos of health workers wearing trash bags and other makeshift personal protective equipment (PPE) have also circulated online as even hospitals have started running out of supplies.

“WHO (World Health Organization) does not encourage this, but this is a stop gap measure as we address the global shortage,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, during the Laging Handa briefing in Malacanang.

“They are not 100 percent protected, but they will provide some degree of protection,” he explained.

“Any protection will be better than no protection.”

Abeyasinghe said there is great importance in protecting health workers as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because if health workers are falling sick, there will be no one to provide support and care for the sick people,” he said.

Abeyasinghe confirmed that there is now a global shortage in PPEs. He called on the private sector to “help support the government efforts in procuring and supplying personal protective equipment.”

“In the meantime, it is unfortunate but people have to adapt and use do-it-yourself kits,” he said.

The WHO official said they are already helping the Philippine government rationalize the use of existing PPEs.

“We are helping health workers better manage existing PPEs to reduce wastage,” Abeyasinghe said.

But on top of this, he said there is also a need to “access larger quantities of PPEs to deal with this ongoing outbreak.”

On Monday, the Lung Center of the Philippines revealed that they are about to run out of PPE suits, which are crucial in handling COVID-19 patients.

An official of the center said that government suppliers have run out of stocks and they will have to buy from black market suppliers who now sell PPE suits at P3,000 a piece from just P500 before the pandemic started. Because of this, they had to raise private funding to buy suits from other distributors.