MANILA - Nine doctors have died in the Philippines from the coronavirus, the country's top medical association said Thursday, as hospitals were overwhelmed and medics complained about a lack of protection on the frontlines.
The announcement of the doctors' deaths heightened fears that the scale of the health crisis in the Philippines is much worse than is being officially reported, with the confirmed virus death toll at just 38.
The main island of Luzon, home to 55 million people, is in the second week of a lockdown to contain the spread of the disease, however medics are warning there is a surge in cases.
The Philippine Medical Association said Thursday a ninth doctor had died of the virus, and that health workers were not getting enough protection.
"If it were up to me, test the frontliners first and test them again after 7 days. Doctors could be carriers themselves," Benito Atienza, vice president of the Philippine Medical Association told AFP.
Among these deaths, as reported by the media, were Dr. Raul Jara, former president of Philippine Heart Association and "one of the great pillars of cardiology; Dr. Henry Fernandez, a 77-year-old resident of Bayambang town, who caught the respiratory disease from visitors from the US; young doctor Israel Bactol, an incoming senior Adult Cardiology Fellow-in-training; and Dr. Sally Gatchalian, head of the Philippine Pediatric Society
Three large Metro Manila hospitals announced Tuesday they had reached full capacity and would no longer accept new coronavirus cases.
Hundreds of medical staff are no longer accepting patients because they are undergoing 14-day self-quarantines after suspected exposure, the hospitals said.
Testing remains limited in the Philippines as of Tuesday, only for those with severe symptoms and those considered most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly, those with life-threatening ailments, and pregnant women.