Philippines losing coronavirus war, doctors warn Duterte

The Philippine government has blamed poor compliance with health protocols for the sharp increase in infections. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Philippines losing coronavirus war, doctors warn Duterte

  • ‘Healthcare workers are united in sounding off a distress signal to the nation — our health care system has been overwhelmed’
  • The government recently loosened restrictions to allow people to return to work

MANILA: Dozens of doctors’ groups on Saturday warned that the Philippines was losing the coronavirus fight, urging President Rodrigo Duterte to tighten a recently eased lockdown as cases surged and hospitals turned away patients.
Eighty medical associations representing tens of thousands of doctors signed the open letter, a day after the country posted a record single-day count of more than 4,000 new infections, pushing the total past 93,000.
“Healthcare workers are united in sounding off a distress signal to the nation — our health care system has been overwhelmed,” the letter said.
“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action.”
An increasing number of health workers have fallen ill or quit their jobs, while some packed hospitals are now refusing to admit new patients, it added.
The government has blamed poor compliance with health protocols for the sharp increase in infections.
The country imposed one of the harshest lockdowns in the world in mid-March, that kept people at home except to buy food and seek health treatment.
But the government recently loosened the restrictions to allow people to return to work after predictions that the Philippine economy will fall into recession, with millions of jobs already lost.
In the open letter, doctors urged Duterte to put the capital Manila and surrounding provinces back under “enhanced community quarantine” until August 15 to give the country time to “refine our pandemic control strategies.”
In response, Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the government was balancing the health and economy of the nation.
“The strict lockdown in Metro Manila has served its purpose, and we need to intensify other strategies,” he added.
Health department officials earlier this week acknowledged hospital bed availability was drying up and the government has had limited success in hiring new doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
The letter said contact tracing was “failing miserably” and public transport and workplace settings were often unsafe.
Lei Alfonso, an official of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, told a news conference on Saturday that the developments “will push us to the brink to become the next New York City, where Covid-19 patients die at home or (on) stretchers.”
President Duterte on Thursday called on Filipinos to keep faith in his ability to swiftly procure a vaccine to be produced by China, a key supporter of his rule.


Manchester bomber came to security service’s attention 18 times

Updated 2 min 18 sec ago

Manchester bomber came to security service’s attention 18 times

  • The security service had been informed twice of Abedi’s intentions to travel to Syria and his pro-Daesh extremist views
  • Abedi also visited convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah in British prisons twice

LONDON: The man responsible for the bombing of Manchester Arena in 2017, Salman Abedi, came to the attention of the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security service, MI5, at least 18 times, including for his links to Daesh fundraisers, UK daily The Times reported on Thursday.
The public inquiry into the bombing heard that Abedi, 22, had been flagged after associating with six MI5 subjects of interest (SOI), including a man previously linked to terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, who was under investigation for helping fundamentalists travel to Syria.
Abedi had also traveled to Istanbul, a city through which terrorists often travel on their way to Daesh territory, a year before he killed 22 people as they left the Manchester Arena.
The security service had also been informed twice of Abedi’s intentions to travel to Syria and his pro-Daesh extremist views. The information was disregarded after he did not travel to the country.
MI5 was also aware of the fact that one of Abedi’s contacts had links to a senior Daesh figure, The Times reported.
Lawyers representing the Home Office said that the decisions made in Abedi’s case were mostly “reasonable and understandable” after the families of victims asked why the police and MI5 had failed to take action that might have prevented the attack.
Home Office lawyer Cathryn McGahey said that the bomber came to MI5’s attention in 2010 and was made an SOI in 2014 because of his links to a Daesh recruiter. The case was closed that same year because there was “no intelligence indicating that he posed a threat to national security,” The Times reported.
The security service admitted that information had come to its attention in mid-2016 that led it to consider reopening the case, but a meeting to consider the step was scheduled on a date after the attack had taken place.
The bomber had also appeared on MI5’s radar on other occasions for his links to suspects affiliated with Daesh in Libya and his multiple trips to that country. However, the security services decided that this was not suspicious behavior, as Abedi had family there. 
Abedi also visited convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah in British prisons twice, once in February 2015 and again in January 2017.
The inquiry also heard that intelligence was received by MI5 twice in the lead-up to the attack, but that it was dismissed as relating to “possibly innocent activity” or to “non-terrorist criminality.” While the intelligence was relevant to the Manchester attack, its significance was not fully appreciated.
McGahey said there were “enormous challenges in assessing intelligence, trying to work out what the risk is, who poses the greatest risk and seeking to predict what individuals are intending to do next,” and said that even if MI5 had taken different decisions in the months before the attack it still may not have stopped Abedi from carrying out the bombing.