Frontliners design own COVID-19 protective gear amid lack of supply

March 22 ------ Crisis has brought creativity out of some health workers at the forefront of fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Lacking supplies of personal protective equipment, the group of nutritionist Clement Monreal from Oriental Mindoro created improvised face shields using transparent PVC plastic sheet, foam, strap, and double-sided tape, according to a report by Victoria Tulad on 24 Oras.

"Simple man 'yung paraan na nagawa namin, pero malaki naman ang naitulong nito para magkaroon ng kahit paano sapat na equipment para pangalagaan 'yung aming mga pasyente, gayun di 'yung aming mga sarili," Monreal said. Meanwhile, a group of medical professionals and volunteers in Baguio produced almost 1,000 improvised face shields using plastic acetate sheet, garter, and foam.

"Madali lang po ito. 'Yung plastic, just make slits on the sides, put ribbons or garters para lang mako-cover, that will cover your eyes, nose, mouth," a doctor said. "We would appreciate if they would donate so we can cover our health workers and policemen," she added.

Others, meanwhile, resorted to using garbage bags in lieu of hazmat suits while a medical staff in Romblon used a raincoat and a water bottle. In Abra, Red Cross volunteers gave improvised face shields to frontliners, bank employees, jail guards, and other residents. A staff member of the Dimasalang, Masbate local disaster risk reduction and management office has also created face shields for fellow frontline workers. After cutting the plastic cover, Rupert Bulalaque-Capellan applied double-sided tape and foam on top. He then attached the two ends of the plastic, creating a face shield.

"Ginagawa ko po 'to kasi talagang risky 'yung kalagayan ng mga frontliners," Capellan said. Though they had good intentions, the Department of Health said it was not recommended. "Ang ating mga protective gears ay may specification which are really intended para maprotektahan ang isang tao," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. "Itong mga improvised materials na ito, maaaring maka-protect sa inyo kasi hindi kayo nalagyan ng secretion pero 'yung sinasabi nating pumasok sa inyong katawan o 'di kaya ay mahawahan kayo, hindi natin masisiguro," she added.

According to former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit, the ultimate solution was to procure proper equipment. The Bureau of Customs reported that it has processed 156 shipments and 38 containers of PPEs and medical supplies on Wednesday.