MANILA (UPDATED) - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday sought to rally medical workers behind the government's COVID-19 response, saying the country was staring at a protracted "war" as cases continued the pile up.
Duque appeared before doctors and other medical front liners in a webinar, appealing for their "sense of patriotism." The government will be needing more of them in the coming months as it continued to beef up health care facilities.
Metro Manila and 4 nearby provinces moved back to the less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) starting Aug. 19, despite warnings from experts that the decision might be premature and might lead to a surge in cases.
"This fight is a serious one. It's a World War Z, as they say," Duque said, in reference to the apocalyptic zombie film.
Duque cited a case where returning health workers were asked to serve in local hospitals during the pandemic, but only 25 of them supposedly signed up.
"Nasa giyera tayo. Magkaisa po tayo. Magtulungan tayo dahil sa bandang huli, sino po ang kakalinga, sino po ang mangangalaga o gagamot sa 'ting mga kapwa Pilipino kundi tayo rin mismo?"
(We are in a war. Let us be united. Let's help one another because in the end, who else would care for our fellow Filipinos but us?)
Malacañang on Thursday announced that the deployment ban on healthcare workers abroad would remain. But those with existing contracts as of March 8 would be allowed to leave.
In July, the Department of Health struggled to convince doctors serving in some of the most remote and poorest areas in the country to move to Cebu to help deal with the rising number of patients there. The doctors were wary that the community might be left with no physicians to attend to them.
Duque said he understood the concerns of these doctors, but said the reassignment would have been temporary and other health workers would have been tapped to replace them in the meantime.
Doctors from other regions later volunteered, he said.