FACE MASK. A woman in Pago village in Tanauan, Leyte wears a disposable face mask outdoors. The Department of Health on Friday (Aug. 14, 2020) urged the public to segregate “infectious” used face masks from general waste for proper disposal. (PNA photo by Gerico Sabalza)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Health (DOH) has urged the public to segregate used surgical or medical face masks from general waste for proper disposal.

“We advise the public to always consider them as infectious. It is important that we designate areas for its proper disposal because if not properly disposed (of), it will bring health risks, especially in the community,” Ludina Insigne, DOH 8 (Eastern Visayas) surveillance medical officer, said in a statement on Friday.

Insigne said it has been observed that most people casually dispose of the masks anywhere or in the usual garbage bins.

To properly take off the mask, one should remove the elastic loops from behind the ears while keeping the mask away from clothes and face, not allowing it to touch or contaminate surfaces.

In households, used face masks must be segregated in a closed bin from the general waste to help garbage collectors properly manage and discard them.

Insigne said both local government units (LGUs) and health facilities follow certain infection prevention control measures in handling infectious waste.

“They follow protocols and disinfect them before disposal. For instance, when we collect swab samples in the communities, we always make sure that we already have an identified area for (the) disposal of our used personal protective equipment after doping or we coordinate with the LGUs,” she added.

The wearing of face masks, especially in public places, has become mandatory to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In Eastern Visayas, a total of 1,464 cases have been confirmed, with 971 recoveries and six deaths – three from Leyte, two from Samar, and one from Biliran – based on the DOH monitoring report.

The region reported its first patient on March 23 and from only 40 cases on June 1, the number surged significantly due to the testing of returning residents, including overseas Filipino workers and locally stranded individuals, mostly from Metro Manila and Cebu.

Although most cases here were acquired outside the region, the DOH urged the public to remain vigilant and not to be complacent by following minimum health standards to reduce the possible transmission of the virus. (PNA)