PH can't handle Indonesia-like surge driven by Delta variant – health workers group

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — A group of healthcare workers on Wednesday warned the Philippine government will not be able to cope with a severe impact of the Delta coronavirus variant on the scale now faced by Indonesia.

The Alliance of Health Workers National President Robert Mendoza cited manpower and healthcare capacity issues hounding the country, especially in rural areas.

"Hindi kakayanin ng ating gobyerno kung magkaroon tayo ng kagaya ng Indonesia na surge," he told CNN Philippines.

He added, "Kulang na kulang talaga po kasi marami nang mga health workers na umalis, marami nang nag-early retirement dahil natatakot mahawaan yung kanilang pamilya ng virus... Kahit sa mga ventilators, kukulangin din, yung mga ICU natin, kasama na 'yung mga private."

[Translation: The government will not be able to handle it if we will have a surge similar to Indonesia. We sorely lack health workers because a lot of them left or opted for early retirement due to the fear of infecting their families. Even our ventilators, ICU rooms even in the private hospitals will not be enough.]

OCTA Research previously said Indonesia had a better daily attack rate and vaccination rate compared to the Philippines before the surge. But Indonesia's health care system is now in shambles as the Delta variant — seen as the most transmissible variant and associated with increased hospitalization — races across the Southeast Asian country.

As of Wednesday, nearly three million cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Indonesia, with 74,920 deaths.

Philippine officials have repeatedly assured the public the government is ready to face the Delta variant as more and more cases are recorded in the country, including locally-acquired infections.

When the Philippines recorded its first local cases on July 16, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government "prepared in scale" for the entry of the variant that is wreaking havoc in huge parts of the world. He said hospitals have been given additional funds to increase bed capacity and buy COVID-19 treatment supplies. He also said isolation facilities have been gradually increased over time to accommodate more patients in case of a surge.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also said the government has asked manufacturers of oxygen tanks to double their current output.

There are to date 35 Delta variant cases recorded in the Philippines, including three deaths and eight active cases.