MANILA (UPDATE)- President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed more Filipino health workers to work abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang announced Monday.
Health professionals with complete overseas employment documents as of Aug. 31, 2020 are already permitted to leave the country, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
"Yung mga health professionals na kumpleto po ang documentation as of Aug. 31, 2020, pinayagan na po kayo ni Presidente makaalis para sa inyong mga trabaho abroad," he said during a Palace press briefing.
(Health professionals with complete documentation as of Aug. 31, 2020 were already allowed by the President to leave for work abroad.)
Duterte later in the day asked other health workers to "wait for a while" as the Philippines continues to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Kina-calibrate lang natin 'yung paglabas ng mga [health workers], kasi kailangan din natin ng mga tao," he said in a public briefing late evening.
(We are just calibrating the travel of health workers, since we still need people.)
Previously, only healthcare workers with existing employment contracts as of March 8, 2020 were allowed to work abroad as the Philippines, a key exporter of nurses and other medical workers, sought to keep a reserve force in its battle against the pandemic.
The Philippines initially suspended the deployment of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers abroad effective April 2.
The ban was aimed to "prioritize human resource allocation for the national health care system at the time of the national state of emergency," the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said in a memorandum.
Workers covered by the deployment ban were the following:
• Medical doctor/physician
• Molecular biologist
• Medical technologist
• Clinic analyst
• Respiratory therapist
• Laboratory technician
• X-ray/ radiologic technician
• Nursing assistant/nursing aid
• Operator of medical equipment
• Supervisor of health services and personal care
• Repairman of medical-hospital equipment
Duterte appealed to the health workers for their "spirit and the fervor to serve the Filipino people" amid the pandemic.
"I have but respect for all of you. But to those who want to go out, pwede na ho. 'Yung mga maiwan naman, sana tagal-tagalan naman muna ninyo until after this COVID-19 (outbreak) will pass," he said.
(I have but respect for all of you. But to those who want to go out, it's already allowed. To those who will be left behind yet, I hope you can stay longer until after this COVID-19 outbreak will pass.)
But Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III later sought for the exemption of nurses and health workers with signed contracts as of last month, from the ban.
The Philippines has logged a total of 286,743 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Sunday, of which, 51,894 are active infections.