MANILA, April 25 (Xinhua) -- The number of health workers who tested positive for COVID-19 in the Philippines has climbed to 1,101, a senior Philippine health official said on Saturday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual media briefing that among the infected medical workers are 434 doctors, 400 nurses, 55 nursing assistant, 32 medical technologist, and 21 radiologic technologists.
Vergeire said that 26 health workers have died from the disease, including 20 doctors and 6 nurses.
The government is now conducting emergency hiring of physicians, nurses, medical technologists, and other support health personnel to augment the current frontline health work force fight against this pandemic.
Coronavirus infections in the Philippines continued its steady rise on Saturday, hitting 7,294 since the first COVID-19 case was reported on Jan. 30.
The Department of Health said 792 patients have recovered, while 494 have died from the disease.
The Philippines is one of the largest exporters of medical workers in the world.
Already, the Philippines has issued a temporary travel ban for "all medical and healthcare professionals" while the country grapples with COVID-19. The government said only those with existing contract abroad signed before March 8 will be allowed to leave the country.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte bemoaned earlier this month a newly announced U.S. policy of granting visas to Filipino nurses and medical workers to augment its response operations, saying this could drain the Philippines of the health workers it needs to wage its own battle against COVID-19.
"The problem is, these Americans, you could have relied on your own human resource. Meaning, you should depend on your own people. Now, you're taking from the Philippines," Duterte said on April 13.
Duterte also expressed concern that since the Philippines cannot afford to pay health care professionals at par with their wages overseas, the country may face a shortage of nurses if the COVID-19 takes a turn for the worse.