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Coronavirus: Philippines' Duterte recommends petrol to clean face masks, says 'not joking'

Reuters/Manila
Filed on July 31, 2020
Philippines, Duterte, recommends, gasoline, petrol, disinfectant, clean, face masks, coronavirus, Covid-19

(Reuters)

Medical experts said President's mask-cleaning tips were not recommended.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday told his people they should use gasoline as a disinfectant for protective face masks - and stressed that his advice was not a joke.

The outspoken leader last week made a similar remark about using petrol on masks if cleaning agents were unavailable, which his spokesman said was a joke and reminded the public that Duterte often says things in jest.

Also read: Philippines records new all-time high in Covid-19 cases, Southeast Asia's highest jump for second day

"What I said is true," Duterte said during a televised address on Friday. "Just go to the gasoline station, and then have some drops, that's disinfectant."

He added: "I am not joking. That is true. You think I am just kidding."

Mask-wearing has since March been mandatory in the Philippines, which has confirmed nearly 90,000 coronavirus infections and more than 2,000 deaths.

It reported Southeast Asia's biggest daily jump in new coronavirus cases for a second straight day on Friday, as Duterte extended restrictions to quell the spread, and promised normality would return in December.

Medical experts said his mask cleaning tips were not recommended.

"You cannot use gasoline as disinfectant. Inhaling it may cause harm and could lead to more problems like respiratory disease," Jose Santiago, President of the Philippine Medical Association, told Reuters.

Health experts recommend soap and water for cleaning reusable cloth masks, and 70 per cent ethyl or isopropyl alcohol for proper disinfection.

The first time Duterte suggested using petrol on masks, some opponents blasted him what they called dangerous advice.

"DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME", Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Twitter.

"'FACT CHECK: Gasoline and diesel should not be used in disinfecting."

Meanwhile, Duterte said in a televised address that the Philippines would be given priority in supplies should China make a breakthrough with a Covid-19 vaccine and the poorest Filipinos would be treated with it first.

The capital region, provinces south of it and some central cities remain subject to curbs on internal travel, restrictions on the elderly and children and some business operations.

"My plea is to endure some more. Many have been infected," Duterte said.

The lockdowns imposed in mid-March are among the world's strictest and longest, and have taken a toll on the country's normally fast-growing economy, with gross domestic product expected to shrink 2 per cent to 3.4 per cent this year, the first contraction in more than two decades.

The measures were eased on June 1 to restart commerce and stem the losses, but infections have since increased five-fold to 93,354, with deaths more than doubling to 2,023.

Duterte's coronavirus task force said it would lock down areas where cases surged, while urging government and private hospitals to increase bed capacity.

Metropolitan Manila, an urban sprawl of 16 cities home to at least 13 million people, accounts for more than half of the Covid-19 cases and deaths.

Duterte also promised free vaccinations if available by later this year and said the poor would be prioritised, followed by the middle classes and security forces.

"I promise you, by December, by the grace of God, we will be back to normal," Duterte said.

Pharmaceutical companies in countries including China, the United States and Britain are conducting late-stage trials on vaccines.

Duterte on Monday said he had made a plea to Chinese President Xi Jinping to make the Philippines among the first to receive vaccines.

The Philippines would buy 40 million doses worth $400 million (Dh1.47 billion) for 20 million people, about a fifth of its 107 million population, said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

"Once the vaccine is available I am sure we can fully open," Dominguez said.



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