Duterte to COVID-19 healthcare workers: It's an honor to die for the country

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — President Rodrigo Duterte said healthcare workers risking their lives in the batttle against COVID-19 should consider themselves "lucky" that they are able to offer their lives for the country.

"May mga doktor na, mga nurses, attendants, namatay. Sila ‘yung nasawi ang buhay para lang makatulong sa kapwa. Napakaswerte nila. Namatay sila para sa bayan. Iyon ang dapat ang rason na bakit tayo mamatay," Duterte said in his late night address to the public on Monday.

He added, "Huwag tayong mamatay sa ibang rason, nasagasaan ka lang at wala ka namang ginawa. It would be an honor to die for your country, I assure you."

[Translation: Doctors, nurses, attendants have died. They died while helping their countrymen. They are lucky to die for their country. That should be why people die, not because of some accident. It would be an honor to die for your country, I assure you.]

At least 12 doctors in the frontline have died after being exposed to the novel coronavirus, while dozens are under quarantine because they may have been exposed to the highly-contagious viral disease.

"Somehow let the thought comfort you that I really worry about you, that I worry that you will not be able to reach an old age with your children and grandchildren," Duterte said.

The President said the deaths could have been prevented if they are fully covered by protective gear.

"Ang pilosopiya ko ho ganito, sa nagtatrabaho, kung protected ka lang, eh make yourself fully covered, protected para walang madisgrasya," he said.

The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI) said health care workers are gravely exposed to the virus due to the shortage of protective gear. Several public and private hospitals and its medical frontliners have resorted to appealing to the public to donate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Health Department on Monday said it has acquired one million sets of PPE worth ₱1.8 billion to be given to health workers in referral hospitals for coronavirus patients in Luzon.

Related: Lying COVID-19 patients caused deaths among doctors, DOH says

Duterte assured the health care field the national government is doing all it can to provide for their needs.

The Department of Health on Monday recorded 128 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing total number of cases to 1,546. The death toll is now 78, while recoveries remain at 42.