Senate on lockdown after guest tested positive for COVID-19

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2020 11:48 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2020 01:13 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Senate building was placed on lockdown Wednesday night after a resource person who recently attended a hearing tested positive for COVID-19, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

“Lockdown na muna,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.

“We are just playing safe and lockdown will give us a chance for disinfection proceedings... Better to err on the side of caution,” he said.

Sotto made the announcement minutes following Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian’s statement that he would undergo self-quarantine after being in contact with the COVID-19 patient at the Padilla Hall last March 5.

Sen. Nancy Binay, who also attended the said hearing, has decided to undergo quarantine, a source told ABS-CBN News.

The Senate President called for calm, assuring reporters that “there is no real danger in the Senate.

“The resource person probably was not positive [for COVID-19] yet during hearing,” Sotto said.

“Let’s not be paranoid. Quarantine period is being observed already by those concerned.

”I’m optimistic that there is no real danger in the Senate,” he said.

SENATE TO CONDUCT CONTACT TRACING

While Senate sessions are not expected to be affected since the chamber is on a 2-month break, the lockdown prompted the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to cancel its second hearing on money laundering schemes linked to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations.

“Out of abundance of caution, we have decided to postpone the committee hearing scheduled tomorrow,” Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon said in a statement.

“This is also to give time to the Senate to disinfect the building and conduct contact tracing,” he said.

The investigation will resume “when the situation improves,” he said.

"With the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, we deem it proper to observe precautionary measures by refraining from holding a mass gathering. Our primordial concern is the health and safety of the people. This, despite the imperative to continue hearing this issue.” 

As of Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 49.

Earlier this week, the Philippines declared a state of health emergency, prompting all government units to join the fight in containing the virus which has killed some 4,000 people and infected about 110,000 others worldwide.