Philippines virus cases top 100,000 in 'losing battle'

JIM GOMEZ and AARON FAVILA
·4 mins read

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Coronavirus infections in the Philippines surged past 100,000 Sunday in a troubling milestone after medical groups declared that the country was waging “a losing battle” against the virus and asked the president to reimpose a lockdown in the capital.

The Department of Health reported a record-high daily tally of 5,032, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 103,185, including more than 2,000 deaths. The Philippines has the second-most cases in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, and has had more infections than China, where the pandemic began late last year.

President Rodrigo Duterte eased a tough virus lockdown in the capital, Manila — a city of more than 12 million people — on June 1 after the economy shrank slightly in the first quarter, its first contraction in more than two decades. After shopping malls and workplaces were partially reopened and limited public transport was allowed, infections spiked sharply with increased virus testing.

More than 50,000 infections were reported in less than four weeks and leading hospitals began warning that their coronavirus wards were fast being overwhelmed to capacity again, as they were when cases soared alarmingly in April.

After Duterte further relaxed quarantine restrictions and allowed more businesses, including gyms, internet cafes and tattoo shops, to reopen, leaders of nearly 100 medical organizations held an online news conference Saturday and warned that the health system may collapse as many medical personnel fall ill or resign out of fear, fatigue or poor working conditions.

“Our health care workers are burnt out with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals,” the medical groups said in a letter to Duterte that they read at the news conference.

They pleaded for the president to reimpose a lockdown in Manila from Aug. 1 to 15 to give health workers “a time out” and allow the government to recalibrate its response to the monthslong pandemic.

“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” said the groups, which represent more than a million nurses, doctors and other medical personnel.

The groups said the gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions “has inadvertently fueled public misperception that the pandemic is getting better. It is not.”

They expressed fears to Duterte that the Philippine coronavirus crisis may worsen like in the U.S. “The progressive decline in compliance will push us to the brink to become the next New York City, where COVID-19 patients die at home or in stretchers, unable to find vacancies.”

The U.S. has had more than 4.6 million confirmed infections and more than 154,000 deaths, by far the highest tolls in the world, based on Johns Hopkins University tallies.

Leaders of the Philippines' dominant Roman Catholic church immediately heeded the medical community’s call, saying they will return to lockdown-like restrictions by temporarily stopping actual church services in Manila and shift all Masses back online.

“It seems that the current responses are not working because the cases are rising,” Bishop Broderick Pabillo said.

Cabinet members have met with medical industry leaders and were to meet with Duterte on Sunday to decide on a response, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

Businesses in the capital and outlying regions comprise about 67% of the national economy and the administration has walked a tightrope between public health and economic revival, Roque said.

Critics have accused Duterte and his top officials of failing to immediately launch massive virus tests to be able to identify and contain hotspots early on, especially when they placed the capital under a police-enforced lockdown in mid-March. The poverty-stricken country has struggled with polio, measles and cholera outbreaks for years and officials have been aware of inadequate health resources long before the pandemic hit, the critics said.

Duterte has also acknowledged that corruption by local officials tainted a massive cash aid program for about 23 million poor families that has been widely criticized for delays and chaotic enforcement.

A leading source of global labor, the Philippines, like Indonesia, has additionally been battered after hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, including cruise ship crews, lost their jobs worldwide due to the pandemic then scrambled to head home.

The government has helped bring home more than 115,000 Filipinos from across the world since February and another 100,000 need to be repatriated in the next two months in the largest such pandemic-sparked homecoming in Philippine history, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

___

Associated Press journalist Kiko Rosario in Bangkok contributed to this report.

More From

  • Rahal drivers gain advantage with Indy 's qualifying draw

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Graham Rahal took advantage of a coin flip Friday. He's hoping it pays off all weekend.

  • Hoge in four-way tie for Wyndham lead after two rounds

    Tom Hoge maintained a share of the lead Friday at the Wyndham Championship, this time alongside Si Woo Kim, Talor Gooch and Billy Horschel. Hoge, whose best-ever tour finish was a second at The Greenbrier this season, was asked what it would take for his first PGA Tour win. The answer could be as simple as regaining his first-round form when he had seven birdies, an eagle and one par.

  • Freeman lights up Sydney Olympics to kick off new millennium

    With the Tokyo Olympics postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press is looking back at the history of Summer Games. Here are some of the highlights of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. After igniting the cauldron to open the first Games of the millennium, Cathy Freeman lit up Sydney Olympic Stadium again 10 nights later by winning an era-defining gold medal for Australia.

  • Heat's Jones carted off court after collision on floor

    Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. was carted off the court and fitted for a neck brace after colliding with Indiana Pacers center Goga Bitadze late in the third quarter Friday. Jones was trying to get around a screen when he ran into the 6-foot-11 Bitadze and fell to the floor. Jones lay on his stomach for several minutes with his right hand over the back of his head.