Philippine health ministry says no corruption in $1.3 bln pandemic funds – Reuters

Philippine Health Ministry Says No Corruption In 1 3 Bln Pandemic Funds Reuters
Philippine Health Ministry Says No Corruption In 1 3 Bln Pandemic Funds Reuters
  • Philippines records second-highest daily COVID-19 infections
  • Pandemic funds not stolen, says health minister
  • Nurses warn of mass resignation over unpaid allowance

MANILA, Aug 14 (Reuters) – The Philippine health minister, facing questions over more than $1 billion in COVID-19 spending, denied on Saturday that any money was “stolen”, as his department vowed to account for every peso.

The country is battling one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, and the spread of the virulent Delta variant is overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers, some of which have warned of mass resignations over unpaid allowances. read more

“You will be assured that no money went into corruption. None was stolen. I am sure of that,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque told DZMM radio on Saturday.

The state auditor has flagged “deficiencies” involving 67.3 billion pesos ($1.33 billion), casting doubts on the regularity of related transactions in the country’s pandemic response.

The health ministry said it will submit its explanation, including required documents, to the state auditor next week, ahead of a Sept. 27 deadline.

The Philippines on Saturday recorded 14,249 new COVID-19 infections, its second-biggest daily increase, and 233 additional deaths. The positivity rate was a record high, with a quarter of the nearly 53,000 people tested confirmed positive.

With more than 1.71 million infections and 29,838 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

The Manila capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to more than 13 million people, remains under a strict lockdown to contain the spread of the Delta variant.

Only around 11% of the country’s 110 million people are fully immunised. Nearly a quarter of the country’s 1,291 hospitals are at the critical risk level – with occupancy rates at or above 85% – government data showed.

Small hospitals near the capital region are getting overwhelmed by surging cases.

A 50-bed public hospital in Binan city south of the capital is trying to treat 100 to 200 patients, most of them in corridors and tents separated by curtains in the parking lot, Dr. Melbril Alonte, its medical director, told DZMM radio

“The sad truth is patients continue to increase and there are no signs of it easing,” Alonte said, adding that the facility’s nurses and doctors are already getting sick from exhaustion.

Dozens of nurses could resign over months of unpaid special risk allowance, Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of the Filipino Nurses United, told Reuters. Healthcare workers will hold a nationwide protest next week, she said.

($1 = 50.55 Philippine pesos)

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by William Mallard

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