President Rodrigo Duterte did not acknowledge those in the frontlines of the battle against the novel coronavirus as he addressed the nation about the government’s measures over the public health emergency.
Duterte delivered a late address on March 12, Thursday where he raised the alert level over COVID-19 to the highest level—Code Red Sublevel 2.
Part of this alert is a declaration of community quarantine over the National Capital Region and suspension of classes until April 12, 2020.
The chief executive also emphasized that Filipinos should “obey” and cooperate with officials, including state forces.
Delivering a meandering address, Duterte managed to inform the nation of measures the government will take. He was also able to squeeze in kind words for Chinese leader Xi Jinping whom he said offered help.
What was evidently missing, as many Filipinos pointed out, was a show of support and gratitude to medical workers and healthcare professionals who are most exposed to the scourge of the deadly virus, as well as scientists who developed cheaper testing kits that allow quicker diagnosis of the disease.
Filipinos then took it upon themselves to thank doctors, nurses, researchers and those involved in the health industry who have been working tirelessly to help Filipinos in the middle of an outbreak.
“To all healthcare professionals, frontliners, & other public servants working tirelessly, kahit hindi kayo binigyang pansin ni Duterte (not even a thank you), your noble deeds will not go unappreciated. We wanna express our sincere thank you for your service—MARAMING SALAMAT!” a Twitter user said.
“Dahil hindi na-highlight ni Duterte kanina, tayo na mismo ang magpapasalamat: Salamat sa ating mga doktor. Salamat sa ating mga nurses. Salamat sa lahat ng frontliners. Salamat sa lahat ng buong oras na naglilingkod sa kalagitnaan ng ganitong sakuna. Tunay na bayani,” another Filipino wrote.
An online user also reshared a post that reportedly came from a daughter of a scientist in the Research Institue for Tropical Medicine, the main research arm of the Department of Health testing specimens for COVID-19 infections.
The post called out Duterte for failing to acknowledge Filipinos frontlining the battle against the pandemic. It also called them the “unsung heroes” of the society grappling with a health crisis.
Another Twitter user claimed that his mother has been working for “almost 24/7” because of COVID-19.
“I hope we all appreciate our health workers’ sacrifices to keep all of us safe,” he shared as he retweeted a post appreciating Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire‘s state of composure in a press conference about the virus.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros similarly expressed her gratitude to the health workers and called them the “real heroes.”
“Instead of thanking China, I’d like to thank our health workers who have been at the frontlines against COVID-19. You have been working tirelessly in the name of public health & safety. You are the real heroes, & I am thankful for your service to our people. Marami pong salamat!” she wrote.
A glimpse of the country’s healthcare system
Earlier this week, it was discovered that only “about 200 to 250” people are getting tested for COVID-19 infection a day in RITM.
Philstar.com reported that the “snail-paced diagnosis” is a reflection of how the Philippines is struggling amid its “worse outbreak since the severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS” that infected 14 people and killed two in 2003.
It noted that most hospitals in the country have limited facilities and insufficient manpower such as doctors and nurses to attend to the sick and infected.
“From slow diagnosis to understaffed hospitals, the Philippines’ long-struggling healthcare system appears ill-prepared for an escalation of a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak,” the report said.
Medical professionals usually work in long shifts. A 2019 report noted that those in public hospitals are especially overworked and burdened with an overwhelming amount of patients.
Despite the grim outlook, scientists from the University of the Philippines have developed test kits for COVID-19 detection which is incredibly cheaper and much more accessible than the ones shipped from other countries.
This would ease the burden of limited hospitals and healthcare workers who currently have access to foreign-made detection kits.
The test kits were developed by UP Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Deputy Director Dr. Raul Destura and other scientists and researchers from the UP Manila National Institutes of Health and the PGC.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation would shoulder the costs for testing.