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The Philippines has banned doctors, nurses and other health workers from leaving the country to work overseas in a bid to throw more resources at its own coronavirus outbreak, reports Patrick Sawer.

With the pandemic threatening to overwhelm Phillipine’s fragile healthcare system the Government says it requires all available medics and support staff to remain in the country.

Thousands of health professionals leave the Phillipine to work overseas, many travelling to the UK to work in NHS and private hospitals and in 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 ratios of doctors per population in the region, leaving it ill prepared to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has now barred healthcare professionals travelling to work abroad for the duration of the nation’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, nursing assistants and laboratory technicians, all of whose skills “reflect the primary function of the organization without which mission critical work cannot be completed and which skills are internally developed and require extensive training, thus, not easily replaceable,” states the order.

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

According to the World Health Organization there are only six doctors for every 10,000 people in the Philippines, compared to Singapore’s ratio of almost 23 and Malaysia at 15.36.

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