Why Duterte's been wearing an air purifier

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 19) — Amid continued concerns about his health, President Rodrigo Duterte now wears a portable air purifier around his neck during public appearances.

Duterte was seen donning the device Friday as he welcomed Indian President Ram Nath Kovind in Malacañang. This prompted the Palace to issue a clarification.

"That is an air purifier, para [so] he will be protected from persons within his proximity who have coughs and colds," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

According to the AirTamer's website, its personal air purifier, similar to the one used by Duterte, removes airborne pollutants – including viruses, bacteria, and dust – from the user's personal space. It can be purchased online for around P7,000. The President has been spotted wearing it in a number of occasions this week.

Concerns over Duterte's health grew this month after he revealed he has a rare neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis. It is characterized by weakness in the muscles that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking and swallowing, among others. On Thursday, the 74-year-old President was hurt after falling from his motorcycle. Officials said the President refused to go to the hospital, saying he was fine.

A January 2019 survey revealed that more Filipino adults were worried about Duterte’s health and more of them also believed that the President has health problems. Critics have been calling for transparency regarding the President's health - possibly through disclosing medical records or a regular medical bulletin - after Duterte admitted having several medical conditions.

In his previous speeches, the President said he also suffered from migraines, nausea, pain due to a spinal injury, and Buerger's disease or a disorder affecting blood vessels. He also went through biopsy in 2018 and announced that he tested negative for cancer.

Malacañang has said there is no need for any medical bulletin since the Constitution only requires it "in case of serious illness."