MANILA -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) will assist the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in monitoring the reported hoarding and profiteering of medical supplies such as face masks due to the sudden surge in demand amid the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) scare in the country,

“The CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) and local PNP units are directed to assist DTI and LGUs (local government units) in monitoring market activities to identify establishments and traders engaged in hoarding and profiteering of medical supplies such as face masks and disinfectants that are taking advantage of the situation to create artificial demand and justify a hike in prices,” PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, told reporters in a press briefing held at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday.

Gamboa, however, clarified that the DTI is still the principal responsible agency on the crackdown against traders imposing overpriced medical supplies.

"But again, it's DTI who is primarily responsible for this specific item, 'yung sa pagbili ng face mask and overpricing (buying face mask and overpricing)," he stressed.

Gamboa said the order was directed to the chiefs of police to take a look at the stores to monitor possible panic buying and orderliness.

"Binigyan na namin ng orders yung aming mga hepe na puntahan nyo na yung mga possible supplies dito, possible panic buying nung mga (face) masks and then pati yung orderliness ng pagbili (We have given orders to the chiefs of police to monitor possible supplies and possible panic buying of face masks and the orderliness in buying)," he pointed out.

On the other hand, Gamboa said that using face masks inside the police camps was only based on need basis.

"So it will be really upon the discretion of the local commanders to determine when to use it or not," Gamboa said.

Measure used by the PNP to prevent the spread of disease was the mandatory alcohol dispenser.

With the first death of a patient positive of nCoV last Saturday, Gamboa urged the public to remain calm and do measures to strengthen the body's immune system.

"I would like to echo the call of our health authorities to remain calm and informed amid this global public health emergency, and instead focus attention and effort in promoting personal hygiene, and strengthening of the immune system thru proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle," he said.

Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año ordered barangay officials to intensity a cleanup drive by properly disposing of garbage and cleaning up the streets and waterways.

Año also directed the LGUs to create its Corona Virus Task Forces to contain the spread of the nCoV in the country.

He said that each barangay must be adequately informed about the disease and prepared to adopt protocols in containing it.

Año said each barangay chairperson or Punong Barangay (PB) must appoint Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) members composed of an executive officer, a barangay tanod, and two barangay health workers, one of them a nurse or a midwife.

BHERT members shall also be equipped with protective gears such as surgical gowns, goggles, masks, and gloves.

He said the BHERTs would serve as the eyes and ears of the government to make sure that residents within their jurisdictions are all accounted for and are fully informed about the coronavirus.

In DILG Memo Circular 2020-018, Año said that BHERTs should visit the home of arriving passengers from a coronavirus-infected country within the locality. They will then list down the names of persons that the suspect has had contact with or without a copy of the list of arrivals from the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

A 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, China who died on Saturday was the Philippines’ second confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus. He was the partner of the 38-year-old Chinese woman who became the first confirmed nCoV case in the Philippines.

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the nCoV-infected Chinese man was also admitted to San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila on January 25 due to pneumonia, fever, cough and a sore throat.

But he died on Saturday, the first reported death due to the deadly virus outside of China.

A new strain of coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has killed over 300 people and infected more than 14,000 others in mainland China alone.

The 2019-nCoV has quickly spread to more than a dozen countries, including the Philippines, prompting the World Health Organization to declare the new virus outbreak as a global health emergency.

To curb the spread of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines, Duterte has already imposed a temporary ban on travelers coming from mainland China, as well as its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macao. (PNA)