Duterte suggested the highly flammable substance as a suitable substitute for cleaning supplies during a speech on Tuesday, Yahoo News reported.
“At the end of the day, hang [the mask] somewhere and spray it with Lysol if you can afford it,” Duterte said.
“For people who don’t [have Lysol], drench it in gasoline or diesel, and that son of a b—h COVID won’t stand a chance. Just find some gasoline [and] dip your hand [with the mask] in it,” the president said.
On Wednesday, the country’s Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire suggested that Duterte was joking and that residents should definitely not take the advice seriously.
“You know how the president speaks. It’s probably one of his jokes, especially [about] gasoline,” Vergeire told reporters during an online news briefing.
Instead “cloth masks should be washed every day, after every use. It should be washed, and dried [under] the sun,” she said.
The health official warned against washing or reusing surgical and N95 masks.
“These masks have components, certain filtering mechanisms that when washed will be rendered ineffective against filtering the viruses, which is why they shouldn’t be washed. After use, or within eight hours, [these masks] should be discarded or replaced,” Vergeire said.
Duterte has a history of unhinged speeches during which he delivers violent, offensive, or otherwise puzzling remarks. In April, he pledged to “bury” coronavirus lockdown protesters and last year claimed he “cured” himself from being gay.
The Philippines has grappled with soaring coronavirus cases during the month of July. It’s reported more than 72,200 coronavirus cases as well as more than 1,840 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
This article first appeared in the New York Post.