The Covid Delta variant has swept across south-east Asia over recent months, prompting lockdowns and overwhelming hospitals with the Philippines hardest hit compounded by a chronic lack of health workers.
The number of Covid patients in the Philippines is at a record high. But nurses and medical staff have for years been leaving in droves for better paid work abroad which means that many hospitals are now severely short staffed.
The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of nurses, with 17,000 leaving to work overseas in 2019, including in the UK and the US. But it is increasingly struggling to staff its own wards, where pay is low and conditions poor. Last week, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines estimated 40 percent of private hospital nurses quit last year, and more have left after new waves of infections this year.
Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United, warned more will go unless the government begins large-scale recruitment to ease the pressure on wards, and pays overdue benefits to staff.
On Saturday, 16,694 infections were reported, as well as and 398 deaths – the second-highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. So far, over 32,000 people have died.