More than 670 Filipino health workers have been quarantined over fears they were exposed to coronavirus, while others have resorted to using bin bags for protection as case numbers rise across much of south-east Asia.
More than 50 million people in the Philippines remain under lockdown, while the country’s medical facilities struggle with a lack of testing kits and shortages of protective equipment. Two major hospitals in the capital – the Medical City and the University of Santo Tomas Hospital – have quarantined at total of 674 health workers over fears they have been exposed to the virus, placing additional strain on wards. Across the country, two doctors are confirmed to have died.
“It is painful for us to hear about their deaths. This is the reality we face. We are risking our lives as we fulfil our duties,” Maria Theresa Depano, health staff at a hospital outside Metro Manila, said.
Across the region, countries have registered a wave of recent cases, including in Indonesia, where president Joko Widodo acknowledged last week that there was a need to immediately ramp up testing. Fearing an influx of patients, the country has turned the athlete’s village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital with a capacity to hold more than 4,000 people.
Indonesia, which has been criticised for being slow to respond to the outbreak, has so far recorded 48 deaths and 514 infections. As in the Philippines, the death toll has prompted speculation that the number of cases is higher than official records suggest. Earlier this month, the country of 264 million people had carried out only a few hundred tests.
In the Philippines, 396 cases have been registered, including 33 deaths, but thousands more patients are suspected to have the virus.
Depano shared photos of health workers using bin bags to protect themselves at the Saint Jude hospital in Laguna. “We are calling the attention of DOH (department of health) or other agencies that may provide us personal protective equipment. We’ve run out of supplies and we don’t know where we can buy,” she said in her post.