MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte "has heard" the medical community's appeal for government to place Metro Manila back under a strict lockdown as they raised the specter of a collapse of the health care system amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Roque said the President has directed the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 to take action on the medical groups' concerns.
"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has heard the concerns of the medical community and the Chief Executive has directed the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to act on these concerns immediately," he said.
He said Malacañang values the health care workers' service as frontliners in the fight against COVID-19.
"We are grateful for their immense contributions to heal our people and our nation during these difficult times," he said.
"Your voices have been heard. We cannot afford to let down our modern heroes. This is our commitment," he added.
He said the IATF would hold discussions on the health sector's plea.
Roque released the fresh statement just hours after saying the enforcement of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)- the strict lockdown level the medical community is calling for- "has served its purpose."
The letter signed by 40 medical societies said that the health care system has been overwhelmed, with hospitals temporarily closing to decongest and health workers falling ill as COVID-19 cases in the country surged under eased lockdown measures.
The groups called for a return to ECQ for at least two weeks, from Aug. 1 to 15, to give exhausted health workers "breathing space" as they served in the frontlines of a pandemic that has seen no letup.
“We’re waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” the letter addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte, COVID-19 chief implementor Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
It was read by Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Dr. Jose Santiago during an online press conference headed by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) on Saturday.
“We propose that the ECQ be used as a timeout to refine our pandemic control strategies addressing the following urgent conditions or problems: hospital workforce efficiency; failure of contact tracing and quarantine; transportation safety; workplace safety; public compliance with self-protection; social amelioration," the letter read.
They cited a potential collapse of the health care system, with more COVID-19 patients being admitted into packed hospitals, while health facilities are understaffed as medical workers have also contracted the disease.
As of this week, over 4,500 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have contracted the disease.
Government just announced Friday that the general community quarantine would remain in Metro Manila and several other areas, while Cebu City, a hotspot, will also shift to the more relaxed quarantine level.
This as government sought to revived the economy crippled by the lengthy lockdown that shuttered businesses and halted public transport for over two months start March, as the outbreak began.
As of July 31, the Department of Health has recorded 93,354 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, including 65,178 recoveries and 2,023 deaths.