The Philippines has temporarily suspended the deployment of healthcare workers abroad as the country struggles to handle a growing number of infections with the novel coronavirus, a government agency said yesterday.
The ban was announced as the main island of Luzon, home to more than half of the country’s population, entered the fourth week of a month-long lockdown that was supposed to end on April 14.
In a late-night televised public address, President Rodrigo Duterte said the government was “inclined to extend the lockdown up to April 30” but still needs further discussions before making a final decision. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said it approved last week a resolution to impose the temporary ban “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until Covid-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”
The resolution covers doctors, nurses, microbiologists, medical biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, radiologists and nursing assistants, among others.
The agency said the temporary ban aims to support the government’s efforts to halt the spread of Covid-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the virus by prioritising “human resource allocation for the national healthcare system.”
More than 20 doctors have died after being infected with the virus in the Philippines, according to Esperanza Cabral, a health expert and former health secretary.
“Many are hospitalised, many are sidelined because they have been exposed unnecessarily,” she said. “This is going to decimate our ranks and if there are not enough of us, there will be more people who will get sick and die.”
NEW CASES TAKE
TOTAL TO 3,660
The Department of Health reported 414 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines, bringing the country’s total to 3,660.
Eleven additional deaths were also recorded, pushing the death toll to 163, while 73 patients have recovered.
The department noted that the current numbers do not reflect the real status of the outbreak because laboratories were still clearing backlogs in testing. This has prompted a growing call from government officials and health experts to extend the quarantine for at least two weeks.
Duterte said he felt like he was between the devil and the deep blue sea in making a decision on the lockdown’s extension.
“If people don’t go out of their homes, they don’t work, they don’t eat,” he said. “But everyone’s advice and all goverments around the world are saying go inside your house and lock it and do not come out until the pandemic is over. When? I don’t know.”
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