'No touch': PSG bars close contact with Duterte due to virus fears

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2020 10:48 AM | Updated as of Mar 09 2020 01:25 PM

'No touch': PSG bars close contact with Duterte due to virus fears 1
President Rodrigo Duterte. Simeon Celi Jr., Presidential Photo/file

MANILA (UPDATE) - Close contact with President Rodrigo Duterte will be prohibited by the Presidential Security Group as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, the head of his security detail said Monday.

PSG commander Col. Jesus Durante said all persons meeting with the President, including politicians and dignitaries, will be screened by the President's security team to ensure the 74-year-old leader does not get sick with the virus.

"We tackled about strictly implementing preventive measures against the virus to ensure the safety of [President Duterte] and the first family. Specifically, PSG will implement the 'no touch' policy to the President," Durante said in a text message.

"Personalities expected to get near the President especially during meetings and events will be thoroughly screened and tested for any illness related to [COVID-19]," he said.

President Duterte welcomed the stricter measures, his spokesman Salvador Panelo said Monday.

"He always follows the advice of the PSG. That is for his own health," he told reporters.

Panelo meanwhile clarified that there is no lockdown in the Malacañang complex despite the stricter precautionary measures against the virus.

The PSG stepped up its preventive measures after the Department of Health confirmed the local transmission of COVID-19 which causes flu-like symptoms.

So far, the government has confirmed 10 cases of the disease which was first recorded in China in late December last year.

Last month, Malacañang began requiring Palace visitors to fill up a health declaration form in light of the virus outbreak.

All persons entering the Malacañang complex also undergo a temperature check and are also asked to rub their hands with alcohol. Those with a body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher are refused entry.

Durante also floated the possibility of canceling the President's public functions for safety reasons.

The PSG however assured the public that health protocols remain in place in Malacañang to secure the government's seat of power.

"All established health protocols and preventive measures are continuously in effect to all PSG personnel and the whole Malacañang Complex," Durante said.