Philippines Duterte approves ending overseas travel ban on healthcare workers

MANILA, Nov 21 (Reuters):Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved ending a ban on deploying the nation's healthcare workers, his labour minister said on Saturday, clearing the way for thousands of nurses to take up jobs overseas.

"The president already approved the lifting of the temporary suspension of deployment of nurses and other medical workers," Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello told Reuters.

But to ensure the Philippines, which has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in South-East Asia, will have enough medical professionals to fight the pandemic, only 5,000 healthcare workers will be allowed to leave every year, Bello said.

Meanwhile, dpa reported that, Duterte, who has previously slammed manufacturers for asking for fees to reserve vaccines, has approved advance payments to secure millions of Covid-19 jabs, his spokesman has announced.

Duterte also overrode a six-month review period that usually applies to newly-approved drugs, meaning it will only take 21 days for the vaccine to be cleared for use in the Philippines, said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

"We agreed to pay in advance because if we don’t, we might be the last among countries to get the vaccine,” Roque said.

The government is looking to purchase up to 50 million doses of the vaccine by next year, according to officials. First to be immunized will be health care workers, government workers, poor people and members of the security forces.

Roque said the government was looking at various ways of financing the vaccine, including partnerships with private companies, as well as bilateral and multilateral loans.

In September, the Department of Health requested at least 12.9 billion pesos (US$258 million) for the initial purchase of the vaccines, storage facilities and other requirements.

The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines on Friday (Nov 20) reported 1,639 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total tally to 415,067.

The DOH said that 305 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 375,237. The death toll rose to 8,025 after 27 more patients died from the coronavirus epidemic.
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