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Will gov’t give free masks? Palace says, ‘How can we give when there's none’

The government, at least for now, is not likely to hand out free masks to the public and would only be relying on private manufacturers to produce more of them. 

This Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Friday when asked if the government will distribute free masks to vulnerable sectors amid the rush for face masks, following a confirmation of the Philippines first nCoV case.

"Mamimigay tayo kung may supply. Eh kayo na mismo nagsasabing walang supply. How can you give [face masks for free] if there's none?,” Panelo said.

"Kung walang mabili, ibig sabihin walang stock.... Iyong manufacturers dapat mag-manufacture sila ng mas marami, mas may kita sila... They should produce more if there is a need for that," he added.

Panelo further said: "If there is undersupply of masks then we would request manufacturers to produce more. In fact they should not be requested to do that [anymore] as apparently, they should."

Also on Friday, Senator Richard Gordon, in his capacity as Philippine Red Cross Chief Executive Officer,  announced that $1.4 million worth of Filipino-made face masks were shipped to Wuhan City in China to combat the spread of nCoV, and that the face masks from the Philippines were shipped to China in just six hours.

Wuhan is the epicenter of the nCoV outbreak. At least 170 people have already died in China due to the nCoV infection.

Outside China, there are 82 confirmed nCoV cases in 18 countries, including the Philippines.

The country's first case is 38-year-old woman from Wuhan, China who arrived in the Philippines via Hongkong last January 21.

Panelo said face masks need not be worn at all times even though the country is already dealing with an nCoV case and is monitoring 31 other individuals who could also possibly be infected with nCoV.

“Mas importante to wash your hands, avoid crowded places sabi ni Dr. Duque,” Panelo said, referring to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

“When you are in a crowded place, then that is the time you wear a mask,” Panelo added. — MDM, GMA News