High number of Filipino healthcare workers with COVID-19 ‘very worrisome,’ says WHO

A healthcare worker crosses a bridge in Pasig City shortly after the Luzon lockdown was declared by the government. Photo: Fernando G. Sepe Jr./ABS-CBN News
A healthcare worker crosses a bridge in Pasig City shortly after the Luzon lockdown was declared by the government. Photo: Fernando G. Sepe Jr./ABS-CBN News

Many Filipino healthcare workers are getting infected with COVID-19 in the country, a fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) found “very worrisome.”

At least 766 healthcare workers have been infected with the respiratory illness, which accounts for 13 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, Dr. Abdi Mahamud, the WHO’s COVID-19 incident manager for the Western Pacific region, said yesterday in a virtual presser. This was way higher than the average in the region which stands at 2 to 3%, making the Philippines an “outlier,” reports ABS-CBN News.

Read: Philippine General Hospital to run out of protective gear in two weeks due to COVID-19 demand

“[W]e’re working very closely with the minister of health [Francisco Duque] to determine the reasons why the Philippines has a high percentage of infected health-care workers,” he said.

Mahamud, however, could not explain why so many Filipino healthcare workers were getting infected but it could be possibly due to the insufficient supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs).

“[The] WHO is working closely with member states in providing PPE so that we can protect this crucial workforce,” he said.

Read: Top pediatrician Sally Gatchalian, sister of actress Ruby Rodriguez, dies from COVID-19

The WHO warned its members early in March that “rising demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse” would lead to a shortage of PPEs, leaving doctors and nurses vulnerable as they treat COVID-19 patients. The organization urged manufacturers to increase their PPE production by at least 40 percent and added that governments should give incentives to companies that create them.

In the Philippines, various hospitals have complained of a shortage of PPEs, including one in Laguna whose workers ended up using garbage bags just so they could protect themselves from the coronavirus.

The Department of Health has purchased PHP1.8 billion (US$35.4 million) worth of PPEs, which has been disseminated to various hospitals since early this month.

The Philippines has 6,599 COVID-19 cases as of yesterday afternoon, with 654 recoveries and 437 deaths.

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