'Forever thankful': Duterte salutes health workers fighting COVID-19 outbreak

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2020 11:37 AM | Updated as of Mar 17 2020 03:11 PM

Barangay volunteers wearing blue hospital gowns and masks check temperatures and provide hand alcohol rubs to motorists entering San Mateo, Rizal from Marikina through Nangka-San Mateo road on March 15, 2020. The National Capital Region has been placed under “community quarantine,” with travel bans to and from the metro to address the rising cases on COVID-19 infection. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE)- President Rodrigo Duterte has hailed health workers on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak as he assured them of a “more tangible” expression of gratitude in due time.

Duterte said the Filipino nation will "forever be thankful" to health professionals leading the fight against the rapidly spreading COVID-19, which has claimed at least 12 lives in the country.

“Our formalities to our doctors, health professionals and health workers, to whom we will be forever be thankful,” Duterte said in a public address on Monday where he placed the entire Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine.”

Duterte also instructed the Department of Budget and Management, and the Department of Health to "find a way to best compensate our health workers."

"In due time, we shall express to them our gratitude in a more tangible way, when this crisis is over," the President said.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told ABS-CBN News Tuesday that he has recommended increasing the hazard pay of workers subject to President Duterte’s approval.

He also assured the public that the government has enough funds for the increase but fell short of saying how much.

Luzon was placed on lockdown on Tuesday which meant strict home confinement in all households, suspended transportation lines, regulated provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedure.

The President earlier placed the entire country under a state of public health emergency to control the spread of COVID-19 following "sustained community transmission” of the disease.

“Lahat po tayo ay sundalo sa digmaang ito. Bata man o matanda, lalaki o babae, bawat Pilipino, anumang estado sa buhay, ay maituturing na sundalo sa digmaan na ito,” Duterte said.

(We are all soldiers in this war. Children, the elderly, men, women, every Filipino, whatever status in life, can be considered a soldier in this war.)

Globally, the new disease, which emerged in China late last year, has infected more than 160,000 people and claimed the lives of nearly 6,500. The World Health Organization , however, said 80 percent of cases globally showed a high chance of recovery "without needing special treatment.”