WHO works with PH on ‘worrisome’ COVID-19 infection rate of frontliners

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) — The World Health Organization sounded the alarm on the high number of healthcare workers in the Philippines who have been infected with COVID-19, underscoring the importance of proper protective gear for frontliners.

WHO-Western Pacific Region COVID-19 Incident manager Dr. Abdi Mahamud said the number of medical workers infected with the viral disease is higher than the average in the region, which has 37 member states and areas including China — the epicenter of the coronavirus disease.

“The worrisome trend we are seeing in the Philippines where the percentage of about 13 percent is worrisome. In our region it is around 2-3 percent… The Philippines is a bit of an outlier,” he said in a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.

The Department of Health said on April 17 that 766 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers in the country have contracted the coronavirus disease. On Tuesday, it was reported that 62 employees of the National Center for Mental Health tested positive for COVID-19. To date, the country has recorded 6,599 cases of COVID-19.

Mahamud said the WHO is working with the Philippines’ Department of Health to find out why many healthcare workers are gravely exposed to the coronavirus disease. He added the WHO is looking at the possibilities that the high infection rate among healthcare workers in the Philippines is either due to the shortage of personal protective gear, its improper use, or if it’s due to the number of cases overwhelming the healthcare system.

“We are working very closely with the Minister of Health to determine the reasons why the Philippines has a high percentage of around 13% infection among healthcare workers. WHO has been working very closely with member states in providing the maximum protective measures. Also training them so we protect this crucial, important workforce,” he said.

The Philippine Medical Association earlier said fewer health personnel would have died from COVID-19 had there been more personal protective equipment available to them. The government has since ordered one million sets of PPE which have been arriving in batches over the past two weeks.