Health advocate backs mask-wearing at home, hopes urban poor to get free product access

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 11)— A health advocate on Tuesday said he supports officials’ call for the use of face masks at home and underscored the need for the urban poor to gain free access to such product.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, former COVID-19 task force special adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said he himself practices the protocol— along with physical distancing— inside his home given that he is one of the “exposed” frontliners in the COVID-19 battle.

“Pag-uwi ko rito, nagso-social distancing ako, nagwe-wear ng mask," Leachon said in an interview with The Source. "Of course in Metro Manila na hindi lahat maa-accommodate natin in the isolation and quarantine areas, ang magaling talaga ay mag-mask din ho tayo sa bahay considering ang kalat daw ngayon, local transmission, ay nasa household."

“So we might as well practice po yung ating culture of commitment na talaga tayo mag-hygiene and self-care,” he added.

[Translation: Every time I come home, I practice social distancing, I wear mask… Of course in Metro Manila where our isolation and quarantine areas can’t accommodate everyone, the best option is for us to wear masks inside homes since there is a risk of local transmission inside the household. So we might as well practice our culture of commitment in hygiene and self-care.]

Leachon also cited a study that showed a 93 percent virus risk reduction for individuals who practiced two of the three minimum health standards— hand washing and wearing of face masks.

May protection pa rin rather than wala (There’s still protection),” he said.

Members of the country's COVID-19 Task Force earlier recommended the use of face masks at home after health officials record clusters of coronavirus cases in households. The Department of Health said people exhibiting virus symptoms and members of the vulnerable sectors are also urged to wear face masks even inside their houses to protect their family members.

Officials, however, said it’s still unlikely to make the rule mandatory, as they said the move should be the "responsibility of the home owners."

In line with this, Leachon likewise urged authorities to roll out a program that will provide free masks to poor Filipinos— particularly those living in the slum areas. The government in July said it was already looking into this suggestion.