The Philippines has become the Southeast Asian country with the highest number of coronavirus cases at the same time it re-imposed strict lockdown measures to try to curb its surging outbreak. The measures came after the government passed sweeping new anti-terror legislation that rights groups say is so vague it could be used to silence critics of its pandemic response.
The Philippines now has at least 122,754 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,168 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Eighty medical associations called for another lockdown, saying health care workers needed a "time out" as hospitals struggled to handle a five-fold increase in infections.
"If you want to resign or if you're too lazy, government personnel will help you and they will work," President Rodrigo Duterte said, lashing out at medical personnel. "I can ask my soldiers and police officers to work 28 hours a day.”
Medical professionals, however, warned that new lockdown measures alone would not be enough to combat the country's growing outbreak.
"We propose that this be used as a time out to refine our pandemic control strategies, addressing the following urgent conditions: hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety, public compliance with self-protection, social amelioration," Dr. Jose Santiago, president of the Philippine Medical Association, said.
Dr. Julie Caguiat, a member of the CURE Covid Network, said that the country's coronavirus task force is mostly made up of former military generals and civil servants, rather than medical professionals.