Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was accused of engaging in “theatrics” after he was seen personally enforcing safety protocols for the coronavirus pandemic at a mall in Taguig City on Thursday morning.
The chief public authority on health held a meter stick and measured the distance between two people in Bonifacio Global City, as seen in a video obtained by a local news outlet.
“Dapat po hindi bababa ng isang metro,” Duque said in a video which has since gone viral.
One meter is the minimum required physical distance among people to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus, especially in public places.
The Department of Health said it is almost equivalent to a motorcycle’s length.
Based on reports, Duque went to BGC to inspect establishments and check if the management and mall-goers are complying with the health and safety protocols which include physical distancing and the wearing of face masks and face shields.
However, he earned criticisms after the video of him checking the distance between two people was uploaded online.
Duque’s inspection was perceived as “theatrics” as some Filipinos recalled his involvement in the country’s vaccine deal with Pfizer, a US-based pharmaceutical company.
“Sec. Duque is busy doing photo op rounds with a ruler for social distancing measures, while the rest of the world is busy vaccinating their people,” a tweet of Tony Leachon, the former special adviser to National Task Force against COVID-19, reads.
Sec. Duque is busy doing photo op rounds with a ruler for social distancing measures , while the rest of the world is busy vaccinating their people. Talking about strategic planning and big picture thinking. That’s why we have the longest lockdown on earth. https://t.co/qyzl9ON6Y2
— Tony Leachon MD (@DrTonyLeachon) December 23, 2020
“Man, halatang for show kayo. If that’s the case, show us something better tf?” another Twitter user wrote in response to Duque’s initiative.
“Am I the only one who is annoyed with his style of theatrics? Sa halip na bakuna ang atupagin, paikot-ikot na may dalang ruler,” a different online user likewise commented.
“Ew so performative for the camera but flakes when it really matters, like you know… Passing documents for a vaccine,” commented another Twitter user with an eyeroll emoji.
Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun also shared her concern about Duque’s meter-stick initiative since the coronavirus disease is also known to spread through aerosols under specific settings such as enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.
“Omg cheap stunt. Ang babaw, SOH (Secretary of Health) ‘yan? Eh di ba aerosol spread pwede nga kahit 20 ft,” she tweeted with an eyeroll emoji.
“Meter stick ba ‘yang pandutdut ng DUH secyu/tanod? Eh di 3 ft lang? Give him a longer wand for his next stunt,” Fortun added.
The World Health Organization notes that COVID-19 can spread through aerosol transmission in indoor and crowded settings with poor ventilation. Such places include restaurants, nightclubs, offices and places of worship.
Duque and the vaccine deal
Duque has been personally enforcing health and safety protocols on the ground before.
Prior to his viral BGC inspection, the DOH chief also went to Divisoria Market in Manila to inspect compliance and remind the public of the measures against COVID-19.
He was recently in hot water for supposedly botching the vaccine deal with Pfizer, which is among those carrying the vaccine with a high efficacy rate.
The deal, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., was supposed to secure the Philippines vaccines that will arrive in January 2021.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson also claimed that Duque had “failed to work on the necessary documentary requirement” concerning the immediate procurement from the US-based company.
“The country representative of Pfizer was even following up on the submission of such documentary requirement,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
The health secretary, however, denied the allegations and said that his department has never received any formal notice that the United States would be prioritizing the Philippines’ purchase of the Pfizer vaccine.
Duque said that as of Wednesday the government is in the stage of studying the confidentiality data agreement with Pfizer. This stage will allow the government to check the results of their previous studies, according to a report.
He also said that procuring vaccines is not as simple as buying chocolates due to specific storage requirements necessary for its maintenance.
“The problem is if people talk and yet they do not have the competence to comprehend the complexities of the vaccine selection, scientific evaluation, procurement, the distribution, production, storage, logistical requirements, the actual immunization program. These are all the imperatives of our vaccine roadmap and you must understand the process,” Duque said.