‘Pasaway’? Filipinos wear masks more than Hong Kongers do – UK study

Bonz Magsambol

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The Philippines ranks second in terms of mask wearing among 29 countries and territories

The Duterte government repeatedly blames Filipinos for the spike in COVID-19 cases supposedly because they fail to observe measures like physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and wearing of face masks whenever going out. 

But are Filipinos really “pasaway” (hardheaded)? When it comes to wearing face masks, recent data disprove this claim.

Around 91% of Filipinos wear face masks whenever they leave their homes, according to a survey conducted by the UK think tank YouGov in partnership with the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London. The survey was released on Friday, July 17.

Filipinos wear face masks even more than the people of Hong Kong, a territory known for mask wearing during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the YouGov report, 81% of Hong Kongers use face masks whenever going out.

The study was conducted among 29 countries and territories between June 22 and June 28, examining the changing behaviors of different populations during the pandemic.

Of the 29 countries and territories surveyed, the Philippines ranks second in terms of mask wearing. Singapore is number one, with 94% of its population wearing face masks outside their homes. 

The study also revealed that 83% of Filipinos always wash their hands with soap and water, and that only 50% of the population can always avoid going outdoors to work.

Meanwhile, the survey revealed that Denmark, Sweden, and Finland only have 2% of their population wearing a mask outdoors at all times. Coronavirus cases are said to be already decreasing in these countries.

Blaming ‘pasaway’ citizens

This London study helps debunk the Duterte government’s “pasaway” claims.

In a virtual press briefing in April, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia because of “pasaway” citizens. 

On June 22, President Rodrigo Duterte himself blamed what he called a “complacent” populace for the rise in COVID-19 cases in Cebu City.

A recent study backed by the World Health Organization said that physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection reduce the spread of COVID-19, in both health care settings and the general community. (READ: How to make washable face masks: A Tesda guide)

On Monday, July 20, the Philippines recorded 68,898 cases of COVID-19 infections, including 1,835 deaths and 23,072 recoveries.

The DOH earlier attributed the continued rise in cases to a number of factors, which included increased testing capacity. The DOH, however, also warned of sustained community transmission of the disease  as quarantine restrictions were eased.

Given the number of new cases, a group of researchers and experts project that the total COVID-19 cases nationwide may reach 85,000 by the end of July. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.