'Last 2 minutes': Philippines losing COVID-19 battle, doctor warns

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2020 11:24 AM | Updated as of Aug 02 2020 11:45 AM

Watch more on iWantTFC

MANILA - Healthcare workers battling COVID-19 in the frontlines are seeking coordination between national and local governments aside from strict lockdown to address the virus surge, a doctor said Sunday as he warned that the Philippines is losing its battle against the pandemic.

Exhausted healthcare workers earlier urged government to revert Metro Manila to enhanced community quarantine in order to give them at least 2 weeks of “breathing space."

The capacity of hospitals in virus epicenter Metro manila for handling COVID-19 patients is at 85 percent, much higher than the "danger zone" level of 70 percent, according to Dr. Antonio Dans of the Philippine College of Physicians.

"Malapit nang mapuno ang mga ICU (intensive care units) at sa'min, babala na 'yun sa buong lipunan natin na hindi tayo nagtatagumpay sa laban sa COVID," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(Our ICUs are almost full and to us, this is a warning that we are not winning our battle against COVID.)

"Kaya nga, pananawagan namin, sana magkaroon ng ECQ hindi lang para masugpo ang pandemya at bumaba ang mga kaso, kundi pag-isipan natin ang ginagawa natin para mag-improve ang sitwasyon," Dans said.

(So we are calling for an ECQ not just to address the pandemic and lower the number of cases, but also to improve our situation.)

"Inihambing namin ito, parang nasa isa kang basketball game at natatalo ka. Last 2 minutes na eh, malapit na mag-tragedy."

(We likened it to a basketball game, there's 2 minutes left and tragedy is almost here.)

The health department, and the government's inter-agency and national implementation task forces against the pandemic seem to be only "advisory bodies" to local governments, Dans said.

"Ang overriding problem, parang wala hong coordination mula taas hanggang ibaba. Meron namang patakaran ng localized lockdown, nasusunod ba?" he said.

(The overriding problem is, there seems to be no coordination from the top downwards. There are localized lockdowns, but are these being followed?)

"Malinaw ho sa taas, pero hindi malinaw sa ibaba, sa frontlines. Kanya-kanya po ang nangyayari, kaya nagiging lalong sumasama ang ating pandemic... Tingin namin kailangan magkaroon ng tactical change spara mapalakas ang koneksyon ng utak ng bayan dun sa mga galamay sa frontlines."

(It's clear on those at the top, but not to those in the frontlines. Everybody seems to be on their own, which is why the pandemic is worsening... We think there needs to be a tactical change to improve the connection between our nation's brain and those in the frontlines.)

During Saturday's briefing attended by over 40 medical societies, health professionals said the country's health care system has been overwhelmed, with hospitals temporarily closing to decongest and health workers falling ill.

As of last week, over 4,500 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have contracted the disease amid the rising number of infections across the country.

Aside from the lack of healthcare workforce, the doctors' groups also urge government to address other issues that led to the surge of virus patients, such as case finding and isolation, transportation and workplace safety, distribution of cash aid to poor families, and social behavior.

"Last one is public behavior kasi nakikita namin habang ginagaanan ang restriction sa quarantine, napapasok sa isip ng mga tao, gumaganda na ang sitwayson, so di na nagmamask, di na naghuhugas ng kamay, nagkukumpol-kumpol na," he said.

(Last one is public behavior because we observe that as quarantine eases, people think the situation is getting better, so they're no longer wearing masks, no longer washing their hands, and are gathering in one place.)

"D'yan na naman lalala ang pandemic, kaya nakikita natin ang pagtaas ng kaso."

(This is why the pandemic is worsening and cases are rising.)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said government would do more to "care for our carers" with detailed plans for support, such as lodging, transportation, food and provision of protective equipment.

The Philippines on Saturday reported for a third day record-high coronavirus infections at 4,963 new cases, raising the nationwide total to 98,232.

The tally includes 2,039 fatalities, 65,265 recoveries and 30,928 active cases.