The Philippines is sending its nurses to the frontline underprotected. Now medics are dying, others risk spreading the virus
Updated 2341 GMT (0741 HKT) April 4, 2020
(CNN)Every day, Filipina nurse April Abrias walks six miles to monitor 30 patients who are suspected to have the novel coronavirus in a rural province north of the Philippines' capital, Manila.
The 29-year-old midwife doesn't have a surgical mask to cover her face -- instead, she wears a cloth mask that provides insufficient protection from the virus, which has killed more than 46,000 people worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
At least 17 frontline coronavirus medics have already died in the Philippines, and more than 600 have been in quarantine, according to CNN Philippines.
Abrias not only worries for her profession. As she makes her daily calls, there is little to stop her from spreading the virus.
One of her patients lives in a fruit and vegetable market, which as an essential service isn't subject to the same lockdown rules that have silenced busy streets across the island of Luzon since March 17.
Abrias said the patient had a fever and body aches, so she told him to self-quarantine in his shop and avoid interacting with other people. He hasn't been tested for the coronavirus, she said, because there are no testing kits.
Abrias has to assume that he has the infectious disease, and that's what makes it so scary.
"Doctors and other health care workers (here) work under conditions of a desperate lack of personal protective equipment, as do others in many other countries," said Esperanza Cabral, a Filipino cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist, who once served as the Secretary of the Philippines Health Department.
The World Health Organization says 96 people have died from the coronavirus in the Philippines, a country of 105 million people, and medical officers are warning of an impending crisis if help doesn't come soon.
Covid-19 in the Philippines
The Philippines reported its first case of the coronavirus to the World Health Organization in late January, and its first death just days later.
More than 50 million people are now living under lockdown rules imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who last week secured powers to unlock billions of dollars of emergency funds. Schools and shopping malls have closed, mass gathering are banned and people across Luzon have been told to stay home.
The rules don't apply to Anthony Cortez and his team of 40 rural health workers who cover Bambang, a city of around 53,000 people, an eight-hour drive north of the capital Manila, in Nueva Vizcaya province.