‘Pagod na pagod na kami’: Frontliners appeal for two-week ECQ in Mega Manila amid surge in coronavirus cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 1) — Frontline healthcare workers feeling the strain of attending to still-increasing COVID-19 patients are urging the government to reimpose strict movement restrictions in Metro Manila and its nearby regions for two weeks.

Several medical societies have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mega Manila back to enhanced community quarantine from August 1 to August 15, noting that the country’s healthcare system is already overwhelmed, and the medical professionals are already “burned out.”

“We propose that the two-week ECQ be used as a time out to refine our pandemic control strategies,” Philippine College of Physicians President Mario Panaligan said in an August 1 letter supported by other health organizations.

Mega Manila is composed of Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa.

READ: Metro Manila, Cebu City placed under GCQ

“Pagod na pagod na po kami. Hindi lang physically but mentally as well. Marami po sa amin ang nagkakasakit ng COVID-19,” Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Encarnita Limpin said separately in a briefing on Saturday.

[Translation: We are exhausted, both physically and mentally. Most of us are already getting infected with COVID-19.]

Dr. Aileen Espina of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians shared Limpin’s sentiment, saying the “medical professionals are suffering from the mental burden of the pandemic.”

‘Your voices have been heard’

Hours after the health workers’ briefing, Duterte ordered the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body in the government’s COVID-19 response, “to act on these concerns immediately.”

“Your voices have been heard. We cannot afford to let down our modern heroes. This is our commitment,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Roque, who is also spokesperson of the coronavirus task force, said that they will discuss the concerns of the medical societies in their upcoming meeting.

For its part, the DOH said in a statement it was “in dialogue with our medical frontliners to discuss the best steps forward, and in so doing we will ensure to strike a balance among all the important factors that we have to take into account.”

'Losing battle'

The groups recommended that the two-week time out be used to address “healthcare workforce deficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety public compliance.”

They said: “We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to come up with a consolidated plan.”

Health workers are also asking the government to reconsider its decision of allowing the gradual reopening of internet cafes, gyms, establishments offering personal grooming and aesthetic services, review and tutorial centers, businesses offering pet grooming services as well as drive-in cinemas.

“These proposed solutions can have far-reaching effects once implemented,” they said.

The Department of Health announced on Friday a record-high of 4,063 new infections, bringing the national case count to 93,354.

Limpin noted the steady increase in cases, and she said this means that the preventive measures are not working.