Philippine medical workers under strain as COVID-19 cases jump

Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema, Reuters

Posted at Aug 13 2021 07:35 PM

People pass in front of St. Luke’s Hospital at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City on August 10, 2021.
People pass in front of St. Luke’s Hospital at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City on August 10, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - The Philippines reported on Friday its second-largest daily increase in COVID-19 infections, providing more evidence of how the virulent Delta variant may be spreading and ramping up pressure on the country's already stretched healthcare system.

Hundreds of hospitals in the country are nearing full capacity, with some facilities reporting they have run out of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients, leaving health care workers, who are forced to work longer hours, exhausted.

"Usually the nurse to patient ratio in wards is one to five, but we are handling up to 12 patients," said Maria Caridad delos Reyes, a staff nurse at the Philippine General Hospital, whose eight-hour shift now sometimes extend to 16 hours.

"We're supposed to have a break time, but because we are extremely busy, we miss our meals, especially now that we are attending to moderate to severe COVID-19 patients," Delos Reyes told Reuters.

The health ministry recorded 13,177 new coronavirus infections on Friday, the highest since a record daily tally of 15,310 on April 2, bringing total cases to 1.71 million, the second highest in Southeast Asia next to Indonesia.

The Manila capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to 13 million people, remains under a strict lockdown to contain the spread of Delta, while the government tries to speed up its vaccination drive.

It would take two to three weeks before the impact of the lockdown is felt, health ministry spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire told a media briefing, as she urged the public to get vaccinated and follow health protocols.

With about 11% of the country's 110 million people fully immunized, millions remain highly vulnerable to COVID-19, which has killed more than 29,800 in the Southeast Asian country.

At a drive-through vaccination site in Manila, 62-year old cycle rickshaw driver, Rudy Santos, was thankful for getting a shot.

"I hope this will help us with our lives. We haven't been able to move freely in so long, so this vaccination is a blessing," Santos said.

The Philippines also announced on Friday it will extend a ban on travelers from India and nine other countries to the end of August to try to contain Delta. 

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