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 front-line medical workers 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 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 the capital and nearby provinces.
They called on the government to implement a two-week lockdown in Metro Manila – the epicenter of the outbreak – to be used as a "timeout" for current strategies to be refined.
"Our health workers are burnt out with seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission," the group, led by the Philippine College of Physicians, said in a letter to the president.
"We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19," it added.
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 front line 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 as the capital region and nearby provinces account for two-thirds of the Philippine economy, 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 localized 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."
In mid-March, the Duterte government imposed one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns in the capital and other provinces to combat the virus.
In an effort to revive the economy, restrictions were eased in June, allowing freer movement of people and the reopening of some businesses. Since then, infections have jumped five-fold, with deaths more than doubling.
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