Several government employees and individuals are waiting their turn to take a swab test at a mega-swab center for Covid-19 in the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on August 20, 2020 (PNA Photo)

The Asian Development Bank (AfDB) has approved another loan to help the government improve the capacity of its health system to respond to and control the spread of 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Manila-based multilateral lender said the $ 125 million (6.06 trillion pesos) loan, called the “Health System Improvement Project to Treat and Limit (HEAL) Covid- 19 ”, would help the Department of Health Health (DoH) improve its services by modernizing medical equipment and related training.

“This project will help improve the readiness and resilience of the country’s health systems at national and local levels to face current and future threats to public health. It will also contribute to the Philippines’ efforts to implement universal health coverage, ”AfDB Vice President Ahmed Saeed said in the statement.

“The project will help the government increase its capacity to perform Covid-19 tests, monitor and prevent and control infections, and provide intensive care equipment to improve treatment outcomes,” said Sakiko Tanaka, senior AfDB Social Sector Specialist for South East Asia.

The loan also aims to provide medical equipment, including EKG machines and defibrillators, to 17 large hospitals and to modernize their laboratories and isolation facilities; and supply ventilators to 70 DoH hospitals and 20 local island public hospitals.

It will also go to the installation of CT machines in 33 hospitals to improve the clinical management of Covid-19 cases; providing test kits, chemicals and reagents to at least 10 government molecular laboratories to increase their coronavirus testing capacity; and the provision of personal protective equipment to frontline health workers and laboratory technicians.

The loan will also finance the training of laboratory staff and technicians in the use and maintenance of the equipment. With the loan, the AfDB said: “[d]Doctors and nurses in obstetrics, pediatrics and emergency departments will learn how to reduce infections and control the transmission of the virus.

“Health workers will also learn how to provide psychosocial support to patients and families, including pregnant women and other vulnerable groups affected by Covid-19,” he added.

The loan comes as the government seeks to more than double its daily coronavirus testing capacity to 75,000 by the end of the year.

It also comes as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country rose from 2,965 to 197,164 on Tuesday, of which 61,730 are active, according to the DoH. Of the total, 136,396 have recovered and 3,038 have died from the disease, which first appeared in Wuhan city, central Hubei province in China, last December.

The loan is the last one granted by the credit institution this year. It had previously approved a loan of $ 300 million for financial inclusion reforms; a loan of $ 400 million to increase farmers’ incomes; a $ 26.5 million loan to help local communities increase their income; Loan of $ 126 million to support the construction by the metropolitan water and sewer system of a water transport pipeline; a $ 500 million loan to strengthen the government’s conditional cash transfer program; a $ 400 million loan to strengthen the country’s capital markets; a loan of $ 200 million to support poor households; and a $ 1.6 billion loan for the government’s response to Covid-19.

These loans total at least $ 3.67 trillion.

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