Duterte adviser apologizes to doctors, frontliners after 'doing nothing' remark


Posted at May 20 2020 10:16 PM

MANILA - An adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to doctors and medical frontliners on Wednesday after accusing them of "doing nothing" for the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion earlier berated doctors and frontliners after several medical associations said they would not recommend rapid antibody tests to screen employees returning to work during the pandemic.

"First of all, I would like to put on record that I have nothing but the utmost gratitude and admiration for the doctors and frontliners who continue to do a great service for our country during this crisis," he said in a statement.

"I apologize if my words were perceived to criticize doctors in general. I hope we will be united in our efforts. With this, I extend my deepest thanks to all frontliners that continue to go beyond the call of duty for our people. We can and we will heal as one."

Concepcion earlier claimed that doctors who complain about the use of rapid COVID-19 tests are a "problem," warning that a return to a strict lockdown would destroy the economy.

"We cannot afford another lockdown. My appeal to all of these doctors, if you have a better alternative, why don’t you tell us that better alternative?” he said.

He added: “Problema nitong mga doctor, salita nang salita, wala namang ginagawa. Complain nang complain. Ang mangyari dito kung magsasarado ulit yung ekonomiya ng Pilipinas? Maraming mawawalan ng trabaho. Ang dami 'yan."

(The problem with these doctors is that they keep on talking but they do nothing. They keep on complaining. If we close the economy again, many people will lose jobs.)

But according to the health department, rapid tests need polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests before the findings are considered conclusive. The PCR test takes longer to process. 

Concepcion said that he only pointed out "that a select group of doctors are against efforts to test employees using a combination of antibody rapid test and RT(reverse transcription)-PCR."

"This virus has brought a devastating blow to the physical and financial health of our nation. And we must work together to save both."

He claimed that through private donors and medical volunteers, the cost of rapid test kits went down by 50 percent, adding he hopes that the price of PCR test kits will also go down.

"This will greatly help augment government efforts in increasing the testing capacity of our country," Concepcion said.

After 2 months of strict lockdown, Metro Manila and surrounding provinces were placed in a modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), toning down strict measures for millions of people.

Establishments in some areas of the Philippines were allowed to continue its operations to get the country's economy running again,

Officials and health experts warned, however, that as people return to their jobs without mass and conclusive testing being conducted by the government, another wave of COVID-19 cases might occur in the country.