President Rodrigo Duterte will get tested for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as a precautionary measure after three cabinet members went on self-quarantine on Wednesday.
The decision for Mr. Duterte to be tested for COVID-19 was announced early Thursday or just past midnight by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go who, himself, will be tested.
Go’s announcement came within minutes of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic or a disease spreading at a fast rate within and among many countries.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez went into self-quarantine on Wednesday after exposure to individuals confirmed to have the coronavirus.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also quarantined himself since he has been constantly dealing with cabinet secretaries. It remains to be seen if other cabinet secretaries who had contacts with either Tugade or Dominguez or both will also put themselves in quarantine.
Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran said she would go into self-quarantine after confirming Tugade’s decision to isolate himself.
Go assured the public that neither the President nor he has symptoms of the virus.
“We are not doing this because we have symptoms of COVID-19,” Go said. “We are doing this to ensure that we are fit and healthy to engage the public and perform our duties in the coming days and weeks.”
Senators Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian, along with their staff, would also go into self-quarantine because a resource during a hearing on 5 March tested positive for COVID-19.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso also decided to isolate himself presumably for 14 days, the period of required quarantine for the coronavirus, upon his arrival from London.
Domagoso said he attended a meeting with the UK Task Force on the Coronavirus.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said some members of the Malacañang Press Corps and the PCOO have also decided to go into self-quarantine after attending a press briefing on 11 March presided over by Dominguez.
With Dominguez in attending the Economic Development Cluster Meeting and the press conference which followed were Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila Jr., and Finance Undersecretaries Gil Beltran and Karl Kendrick Chua.
The said officials have not stated as of this posting whether they would also go on self-isolation.
“We also appeal to the other members of the MPC and the PCOO personnel who may have been exposed to voluntarily go on self-isolation and seek medical attention to avert the possible spread of infection,” Andanar said.
Presidential Security Group Commander Colonel Jesus Durante III announced Malacañang will be closed today for disinfection but employees will have to report for work on Friday.
49 confirmed cases
As of this posting, the Philippines has so far recorded 49 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including two deaths. Among the 49 are two Chinese nationals who have recovered and another Chinese in critical condition.
WHO has declared the virus to have reached pandemic proportions having killed more than 4,200 people, most of them in China, since the outbreak started last December in Wuhan City in Hubei province.
About 118,000 had been infected by the virus globally.
The most commonly reported symptoms of Covid-19 infections are dry cough, fever and shortness of breath, according to the WHO.
The organization said five percent of those infected become critically ill while eight in 10 of infected patients only experience mild illness.
With Francis Wakefield