President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his address from the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang complex on March 30, 2020. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte gave an unusual tribute to a dozen doctors who have died in the course of treating Covid-19 patients, in a public address shortly before midnight on Monday.

He likened their demise to the deaths of soldiers in battle.

“Napakaswerte nila. Namatay sila para sa bayan. Iyon ang dapat ang rason na bakit tayo mamatay (They are lucky. They died for the country. That’s the right reason to die),” the president said.

Duterte announced that the government was procuring medical supplies, devices and personal protective equipment, amid criticism of the lack of preparedness and protection for health care frontliners, as well as health authorities’ refusal to do mass testing.

“About one million medical protective items are being acquired right now, with the government and the private sector working together to purchase or produce the necessary quantities,” he said.

“We are also ramping up our capacity to test more broadly to take a fuller and more accurate picture of the spread of Covid-19 in the country. We will also build, operate and accredit more medical facilities and laboratories in the coming weeks,” he added.

The number of Covid-19 cases rose to 1,546 on Monday. A total of 78 patients have died of the disease. (