Duterte takes COVID-19 test as top officials go on self-quarantine

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2020 06:54 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2020 08:40 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte gets tested for COVID-19 at Bahay Pagbabago in Malacañang on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Courtesy of Sen. Bong Go

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte was tested for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on Thursday as his top officials went on self-quarantine following close contact with a person who tested positive for the disease.

Duterte and his former aide Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go were tested for the virus at 5 p.m. at Bahay Pagbabago in the Malacañang complex. The test was administered by health professionals from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Results of the test will be released in 48 hours or on Saturday, Go said.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the chief executive chose to undergo the test to “ensure that they are fit and healthy to perform their duties as government workers.”

“They are undertaking this pre-emptive step as per advice of health officials given that they have regularly engaged with Cabinet officials, some of whom have opted to undergo self-quarantine as they were exposed to those infected with COVID-19,” Panelo said on Thursday.

Malacañang earlier announced that Duterte’s scheduled trip to Boracay on Thursday has been rescheduled to another date as it monitors the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

His foreign trips have also been suspended as a precautionary measure against the disease, according the Presidential Security Group.

WHAT PROMPTED SELF-QUARANTINE OF CABINET MEN?

Meanwhile, several of the President’s top officials began isolating themselves from the public on Thursday after attending the inspection and presentation of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbor Link Circumferential Road 3-Circumference 10 in Caloocan City on March 5 where the person who tested positive for COVID-19 was also present.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno were all present at the said event and have all confirmed to ABS-CBN News their plans to go on self-quarantine.

“I was in the NLEX inspection ceremony with Secretaries Dominguez and Tugade last Thursday…Thought it’s best to go on self-quarantine to be on the safe side,” Diokno told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, who was not present at the March 5 event, also opted to go on self-quarantine following contact with Dominguez during an economic cluster development meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Another Cabinet official, who refused to be named, also confirmed that the NLEX event prompted the self-quarantine of several of the President's men.

Under the protocol of the health department, undergoing self-quarantine means isolating oneself for 14 days.

The Senate building, meanwhile, was shuttered Wednesday night after a resource person who recently attended a hearing tested positive for COVID-19, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

Duterte is set to address the public on Thursday night to announce measures agreed upon by the government’s inter-agency task force handling the country’s response to the disease outbreak in relation to controlling the spread of COVID-19.

PALACE DISINFECTED

To ensure that the government’s seat of power is free from the virus, some areas in the Malacañang complex were disinfected on Thursday.

Presidential Security Group commander Col. Jesus Durante told ABS-CBN News that the Palace was subject to “precautionary disinfection and decontamination” particularly in areas frequented by Duterte.

The New Executive Building, which houses the Presidential Communications Operations Office, was also disinfected after it hosted some officials of the Department of Finance who had close contact with Dominguez, who has opted to go on self-quarantine.

The finance officials held a briefing on Wednesday in Malacañang, which was attended by reporters.

“At this point in time when public health is at risk, we seek everyone’s understanding and cooperation in taking the necessary precautions and in following safety protocols,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.

The Philippines has so far confirmed 52 cases of the disease, and Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency and suspended classes in Metro Manila this week.

The World Health Organization is characterizing the outbreak of the new coronavirus as a pandemic due to "the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction."

-- with a report from Reuters