Health Dep’t rejects use of gasoline to disinfect masks after Duterte wrongly suggests it

<i>Photo: Sam Epodoi / Unsplash, President Rodrigo Duterte in July 21 broadcast /  Screengrab from Malacanang RTVM </i>
Photo: Sam Epodoi / Unsplash, President Rodrigo Duterte in July 21 broadcast / Screengrab from Malacanang RTVM

Ah, comedy. Where would we—and the president—be without you?

President Rodrigo Duterte was probably joking when he said facemasks should be disinfected by drenching them in diesel or gasoline, the Department of Health (DOH) said today, adding that Filipinos should not heed the chief executive’s suggestion.

“You know how the president speaks. It’s probably one of his jokes, especially [about cleaning them with] gasoline,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in an online briefing in English and Filipino.

Instead, she said that “cloth masks should be washed every day, after every use. It should be washed, and [should be] dried [under] the sun.”

Surgical and N-95 masks, on the other hand, should not be reused.

“These masks have components. [They have] certain filtering mechanisms that when washed will be rendered ineffective against filtering the viruses, which is why they shouldn’t be washed. After use, or within eight hours, [these masks] should be discarded or replaced,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire’s warning comes a day after Duterte said in a publicly broadcast speech that flammable liquid could be used to clean facemasks if cleaning materials prove to be too expensive. He also suggested spraying masks with disinfecting alcohol after every use.

“At the end of the day, hang it somewhere and spray it with Lysol if you can afford it.,” Duterte said.

“For people who don’t [have Lysol], drench it in gasoline or diesel, and that son of a b*tch COVID won’t stand a chance. Just find some gasoline [and] dip your hand [with the mask] in it,” the chief executive said in English and Filipino.

Read: ‘Kill that son of a b***h’: Duterte jokes about executing inventor of e-cigarettes

Duterte has often used humor to deliver offensive—and misogynistic—statements, whether it’s telling volcano victims that their beautiful women made his problems disappear, to saying “42 virgins” in heaven were enough to motivate suicide bombers. His officials downplay the severity of his remarks by saying they’re just jokes, but numerous Filipinos do not find any humor in them.


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