MANILA (UPDATE) - Key members of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet on Saturday convened to discuss the medical community's appeal to put Metro Manila under severe lockdown measure amid surging coronavirus infection.
"Recommendations from the aforesaid meeting will be also be submitted tonight for the President's review," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Medialdea and Roque were joined by Secretaries Wendel Avisado (Budget and Management), Ramon Lopez (Trade and Industry), Francisco Duque III (Health), Eduardo Ano (Interior and Local Government), and Delfin Lorenzana (National Defense).
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Ong and Presidential Assistant for Foreign Affairs Robert Borje also attended.
Present, too, were: National Task Force Chief Implementer Charlie Galvez, Deputy Chief Implementer of the NTF Vince Dizon, One Hospital Incident Command Chief Leopoldo Vega, and Senator Bong Go, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health.
According to Roque, prior to the meeting, the officials spoke with representatives of the Philippine Medical Association, the Philippine Nurses Association, and the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists, who aired the "challenges" they faced in the COVID-19 frontlines.
In a letter addressed to Duterte, doctors and nurses have called on the government to revert Metro Manila's restriction to enhanced community quarantine for 2 weeks.
“We’re waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” a statement from 40 medical societies read.
They said the country's health care system has been stretched thin, with some hospitals temporarily closing to decongest and health workers falling ill.
“Our health workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies. If the health system collapses, it is ultimately our poor who are most compromised. In the end, winning the war against COVID-19 relies heavily on being able to keep our health system capacitated to address the need of all Filipinos,” the letter added.
“We hope our government heeds this plea.”
Metro Manila, home to roughly a tenth of the Philippines' 100 million population, remained as the country's coronavirus epicenter, with 50,611 cases.
Some 4,823 health workers have so far caught COVID-19, of which 38 have succumbed to the disease.
On Saturday, the Philippines marked a third day of record-high coronavirus infections at 4,963 new cases, raising the nationwide caseload to 98,232.
The tally includes 2,039 fatalities, 65,265 recoveries and 30,928 active cases.