“COVID-19 is airborne.”
Some doctors and concerned Filipinos made this reminder in response to President Rodrigo Duterte‘s exchange with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a briefing last January 17.
Duque’s claims on Omicron, COVID-19
Duque was discussing the Omicron variant of COVID-19 when Duterte asked him if can be transmitted through the air.
The chief executive wondered about the still rising cases among vaccinated individuals and those wearing face masks.
“May iba o marami ‘yan sila na bakunado, hindi naglalabas ng bahay, tinatamaan pa rin ng ano. Is it…is that an airborne…itong ano? Kasi marami ng…naka-mask na ‘yung mga tao eh, tapos tinamaan pa rin,” Duterte said.
Duque, however, did not give the president a firm response.
Instead, the health secretary claimed that the ones getting infected are those who are not wearing their face masks properly.
The health secretary described the practice of improper wearing of face mask as “token compliance.”
“Iyong mga tinatamaan, Mr. President, either mali ‘yung kanilang pagsuot ng mask, naka…nakaganoon o nakalabas ‘yung ilong, ganoon. Useless ‘yan eh, that is what we call token compliance,” Duque said.
“But it is the wrong way of doing things. It is the wrong way of complying…complying with our minimum public health standards,” he added.
Duque attributed the increase in COVID-19 cases to the holiday season.
“Eh alam niyo itong nagdaan na Kapaskuhan at saka Bagong Taon, Mr. President, ‘di ba ang mga tao nag-celebrate sila noong Christmas. Nag-imbita ng mga tao, siyempre kakain ka, tatanggalin mo ‘yung mask mo. Kakain ka tapos mag-uusap kayo,” he said.
Duterte later asked where his face mask is while cursing.
“Bwisit itong Omicron na ‘to,” the president said.
BATO BATO SA LANGIT 😂
President Duterte wears a face mask after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III notes that those who do not wear their masks properly usually contract COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/GA6Z6D4z29
— Philstar.com (@PhilstarNews) January 18, 2022
Criticisms from doctors, social media users
Doctors reminded Duque that COVID-19 can be transmitted through air as evidenced in several studies in 2021.
They also slammed the Cabinet official for passing the blame of the worsening situation to the public.
“Una po sa lahat, COVID-19 is airborne in case di pa po kayo updated. Wag isisi sa mga mamamayan ang mga sarili ninyong pagkukulang,” physician Harold Henrison Chiu said.
“Kung yung mismong Secretary of Health ay hindi masabi with firm conviction na COVID is airborne, ANLAKI na talaga ng problema ng gobyernong ito,” Dr. Gene Nisperos also tweeted.
“Mawalang galang na ho Sir, but ‘it’s the wrong way of doing things’ best describes YOUR leadership in this pandemic; both YOU and your president,” another doctor, Paolo Medina, said.
Other online users attributed the current COVID-19 surge to expensive COVID-19 testing in the country.
“Kasi nga po marami ang asymptomatic. At kung may konting ubo, hindi pinapansin, kasi nga po napakamahal ng testing, takot um-absent, at maliit lang mga bahay nila,” a doctor with the handle (@EyeWarrior1) said.
A professor named Joshua Agar, on the other hand, pointed out that at least Duterte has awareness that COVID-19 could be airborne.
“To be fair, even the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, is hearing that #COVIDisAirbornePH, given that the transmission is reported indoors and even across whole households. But the Sec. of Health, Francisco Duque III, gave a disappointing answer of blaming the people again,” Agar said.
Some social media users shared old photos of Duque to call out his “token compliance” remark.
The photos showed him implementing the physical distancing rule using a meter stick and his improper way of wearing a face mask before.
tOkEn CoMpLiAnCe pic.twitter.com/4gntEYWm7S
— ETF (@oiger) January 18, 2022
@SecDuque knows about wearing masks wrongly; after all, he was guilty of doing it at some point.
As for “token compliance” and the “wrong way of doing things”, we’ve also experienced something similar from this gov’t since 2020:
a TOKEN PANDEMIC RESPONSE. pic.twitter.com/F6g6pbYgtR
— The Wasted Wanderer (@_wastedwanderer) January 18, 2022