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Coronavirus

Philippines to update COVID-19 strategy as healthcare workers seek 'timeout'

Jeepney drivers who lost livelihoods amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak beg for financial support on a roadside in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 30.   © Reuters

MANILA (Reuters) -- The Philippines' health department vowed on Sunday to update its game plan against COVID-19 within a week and sought to beef up the healthcare workforce in the capital Manila, where medical frontliners are calling for reviving strict lockdowns.

The Southeast Asian country on Saturday reported 4,963 additional coronavirus infections, the largest single-day jump on record, bringing its total confirmed cases to 98,232, while its death toll had climbed to 2,039.

It has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths in the region, behind Indonesia.

In the largest call yet from medical experts to contain the virus, 80 groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses, on Saturday said the Philippines was losing the fight against the disease and warned of a collapse of the healthcare system from soaring infections without tighter controls.

In a statement issued following an unscheduled meeting late on Saturday of the government's coronavirus task force to address the concerns of doctors and nurses, the Department of Health said it would come up with an updated COVID-19 strategy within seven days.

It appealed to healthcare workers in the provinces and those returning from abroad to help beef up the frontline workforce in the capital, and sought help from universities and medical groups in hiring more doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

The government appears reluctant to revive strict curbs on movement in the capital, saying there are other ways to control the spread of the disease.

Still, the health department said it supports the healthcare workers' call for a "timeout" and would "proactively lead the implementation of effective localised lockdowns".

"The battle is not over, and it will not be for a long time yet," the department said in a statement. But "we will marshal all our efforts to turn the tide."

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