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.


Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”