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The Philippines has prohibited doctors, nurses and other health workers from leaving the country to work abroad to devote more resources to its own coronavirus epidemic, reports Patrick Sawer.

With the pandemic threatening to overwhelm Phillipine’s fragile health system, the government says it requires all available doctors and support staff to remain in the country.

Thousands of health professionals leave the Philippines to work abroad, many traveling to the United Kingdom to work in the NHS and private hospitals and social care.

More than 30,000 doctors, nurses and medical technicians left the Philippines in 2010, according to the latest available data.

But the country has one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios in the region, leaving it unprepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has now banned health professionals from traveling abroad during the country’s state of emergency.

The ban covers 14 jobs defined as “mission critical”, including doctors, nurses, microbiologists and pharmacists.

It also includes hospital equipment repair technicians, licensed practical nurses and laboratory technicians, all of whose skills “reflect the primary function of the organization without which mission-critical work cannot be accomplished and which skills are developed in-house and require in-depth training, therefore, not easily replaceable ”, specifies the prescription.

The Philippines had 4,076 cases of coronavirus on Thursday, with deaths reaching 203. More than 200 health workers have been infected, including at least a dozen who have died from the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, there are only six doctors per 10,000 people in the Philippines, compared to almost 23 for Singapore and 15.36 for Malaysia.


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