BATTLE-WEARY MEDICAL FRONT-LINERS. Front-liners on duty at a hospital wear complete protective personal equipment. Heeding medical front-liners’ call for a timeout to prevent the collapse of the country's healthcare system, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte reverted Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan to modified enhanced community quarantine starting August 4. (DOH photo)

MANILA – Recognizing the hardships of medical front-liners amid the surge in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday encouraged them to soldier on for the people.

In a late night public address, he acknowledged that healthcare workers were all “bone-weary”, saying he could not force them to work if they no longer felt like doing so.

However, he said they were in the frontlines because the Covid-19 pandemic is a “war” that they have been trained to fight.

“Kung walang tutulong sa bansa at mga kababayan natin, sino ang aasahan ko? Sino ang aasahan natin na gumawa ng trabahong ito? Huwag kayo mawalan ng pag-asa (If nobody will help the country and our people, who will I rely on? Who will we rely on to do the job? Don’t lose hope),” he said.

Heeding medical front-liners’ call for a timeout, Duterte reverted Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

He vowed to hire additional healthcare workers; provide them with additional benefits, life insurance, free accommodation, free transportation, free and frequent testing; minimize movement by implementing quarantine passes; directing local government units (LGUs) to intensify the localized lockdowns; enforce guidelines for minimum health standards; and prioritize the use of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

He said the government is doing “everything possible” to alleviate the situation, to assist healthcare workers, and enhance the country’s healthcare system.

He appealed for more patience and fervor, discouraging healthcare workers from acting as if they were prepared to quit their jobs.

“You raise the spectacle ng agony ninyo (of your agony), you treat it as if you are ready to stop work, ‘wag naman ganun kasi kawawa ang mga kababayan natin (don’t do that because our people would be pitiful),” he said.

He also suggested that healthcare workers could relay their concerns directly to government next time because the government is always willing to listen.

As cases of Covid-19 infected healthcare workers continue to rise, Duterte said his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña has expressed interest to practice nursing again.

“My wife has also volunteered to be a front-liner. May anak kami (We have a child). But since she is moved with a sense of…kasi sabi niya nahihiya siya sa sarili niya (it’s because she says she’s ashamed). She’s a nurse and yet itong ganitong it’s a war against microbes. Who are our soldiers? The nurses and the doctors,” he said.

Avanceña once worked as a nurse in the United States.

He added that if healthcare workers refuse to “go the extra mile” in the battle against Covid-19, he completely understood.

On Saturday, at least 80 medical associations representing thousands of doctors signed a letter asking the government to implement a more stringent quarantine classification to prevent the collapse of the country's healthcare system amid the prevailing health crisis. (PNA)