MANILA — The Philippines' health department on Monday asked public personalities not to promote misinformation after a lawyer once suspended from practice said face masks are only "for show."
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing that the Department of Health will be issuing a statement about the remarks of Larry Gadon dismissing the use of face masks after a photo of him wearing a face shield taped with a face mask drew flak.
“This is not a joking matter,” Vergeire said.
“Alam ng mga tao, lahat, may namamatay, may nagkakasakit. Nagsu-suffer ang economy. And the only way to go for us to fight this situation or to overcome the situation is lahat tayo magtulung-tulungan. So yung mga ganitong statements is not helping us at all.”
(We all know that there are people dying, getting sick. The economy is suffering. And the only way to go for us to fight this situation or to overcome the situation is for all of us to work together. So such statements do not help us at all.)
The Philippines has so far logged 161,253 coronavirus infections, with 2,665 succumbing to the disease. Its first case was reported on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged.
Vergeire said those who will suffer from any misinformation are the country's health workers who are already overworked because of the increasing number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals.
She said public personalities should not spread misinformation because people may follow their example.
“Dito po tayo nagkakaroon ng problema. Dahil currently hirap na po tayo mag-enforce ng minimum health standards (This is where the problem lies. Because we’re already having difficulty enforcing minimum health standards). So we seek the help of everybody in giving the accurate information to our general public,” Vergeire said.
Scientific studies have already shown that face masks can protect people from the risk of COVID-19 transmission by as much as 85%, said Vergeire.
The percentage goes up to 99% if the face mask is worn with a face shield.
“Sana lahat ng tao maintindihan nila kung ano ang implikasyon pag nagsalita sila in public because people are following them,” Vergeire said.
(So I hope people understand the implication of their comments in public because people are following them.)
Aside from proper wearing of face masks, authorities have been advising the people to frequently wash hands and observe physical distancing.
Echoing Vergeire's statement about the value of face masks and the minimum health protocols that must constantly be observed amid the pandemic, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that since Gadon is not a medical doctor, "let that be his personal opinion."