As COVID-19 cases top 2 million, Duterte lauds Duque, health workers for recoveries

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III gives an update to President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on August 26, 2021. 

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday highlighted the number of recoveries from COVID-19 as the country’s total cases breached the 2-million mark, a “consolation” which he credited to medical workers and Health Secretary Francisco III. 

The Philippines passed the 2 million mark in coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with a fifth of those recorded in the past month alone. 

“Ang consuelo natin is 1.8 million of these have recovered, so meron na lang 200 [thousand] na wala,” Duterte said in a taped national address. 

(Our consolation is 1.8 million of these have recovered, so we only have 200,000 that have not.) 

“And that is a very good reflection what our health people are doing, and I would like also to commend Secretary Duque for that.” 

At least 103 medical workers have died during the pandemic, among some 33,500 coronavirus fatalities overall.

Scores of healthcare workers protested this week to demand an end to what they called government neglect and unpaid benefits, as pressure built at hospitals fighting one of Asia’s longest-running coronavirus epidemics.

Protesters wearing protective medical gear gathered at the Department of Health on Wednesday and held placards demanding their risk allowances and hazard pay, and the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

“It is sad that many of us have died, many of us became sick, and many have resigned or opted to retire early, yet we are still kneeling before the DOH to give us our benefits,” Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, said from the back of a pickup truck.

“The government promised it will give the benefits today but up to now, it has not. I pity us because we are the ones begging,” said nurse Nico Oba.

Duterte has stood by Duque during repeated calls for his resignation, the latest after state auditors flagged “deficiencies” in more than P67 billion COVID-19 spending.

Duque on Wednesday told Reuters the government was working on the release of benefits but appealed for more time.

In his latest speech, Duterte noted that at least 14 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far. 

Government aims to inoculate up to 70 million people this year to achieve herd immunity and safely reopen the economy. 

“Vaccination really is what we can offer you to fight COVID, walang iba (nothing else). There’s no other defense against the microbe,” said the President. 

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