Duterte asks: ‘Is COVID-19 airborne?’ Duque blames spread on ‘token compliance’ with rules


MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III cited “token compliance” of basic health protocols when President Rodrigo Duterte asked if COVID-19 is airborne since those wearing masks and staying home still get infected.

“This Omicron has hit so many people who wear masks, who are vaccinated. Even those who just stay at home… they get infected,” Duterte said, speaking a mix of English and Filipino, to Duque in his weekly taped meeting that aired late Monday.

“There are others – or there are many of them — who are vaccinated who still get infected. Is that airborne? There are so many people who are already wearing masks who still get infected,” he went on.

Duque did not categorically answer, but he pointed to “token compliance” of minimum health standards, such as the improper wearing of face masks.

“Those who get infected are either wearing their mask wrongly or with their nose sticking out. That’ useless. That is what we call token compliance, but it’s the wrong way of doing things,” Duque said.

“It is the wrong way of complying with our minimum public health standards. For example, when it comes to avoiding contact, instead of [distancing from each other] one meter, people talk close together,” he added.

Further, Duque cited the recent holiday celebrations.

“This past Christmas and New Year, people celebrated Christmas by inviting other people. Of course,  if you’re eating you have to remove your mask,” he said.

He noted that those with the Omicron variant  could “easily transmit the virus.”

“The findings on the Omicron variant [show that] it gathers in the upper respiratory [tract. There are many cases where it’s in the nose or in the throat but not in the lower part of our lungs from where they can’t easily get out.,” Duque said.

“Individuals with Omicron variant can easily transmit [the virus] because when they talk, cough a bit, blow their nose a little, they could easily transfer [the virus],” he added,

On Monday, the Philippines logged 37,070 more COVID-19 cases, over 13,000 of which were recorded in Metro Manila.

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