MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay tested negative for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Health said Tuesday, deescalating worries that the virus may have already spread in one of the Philippines' legislative branches.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Gatchalian and Binay attended a March 5 hearing in the Senate where a resource person, who later on tested positive for COVID-19, was present.
"Lumabas naman na ang test results nina Senators Nancy and Gatchalian ay negative,” Duque told radio DZMM.
Gatchalian said he was ending his self-quarantine.
"Having surpassed this, rest assured that my office will continue to function pursuant to the guidelines and protocols set on an enhanced community quarantine," Gatchalian said in a statement.
"There’s a lot of work to be done especially in the middle of this crisis while the number of infected cases continues to rise. We must pool our resources together to fight this dreaded virus," he said.
Binay opted to complete her 14-day isolation, saying "necessary precautions" must be made as "COVID-19 is a serious matter."
"I will still continue with my 14-day quarantine. Hindi pa po tapos ang laban natin kontra sa COVID-19, and we don't want to have a false sense of security," Binay said in a statement posted on her Twitter account.
"COVID-19 is a serious matter. Let's take the necessary precautions in protecting ourselves for the sake of our families and everyone else," she said.
ZUBIRI TO UNDERGO RETESTING
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who has been in quarantine since last week, earlier tested positive for COVID-19.
"Ito na lamang sabi ko sa kaniya, kinausap ko siya ituloy ang quarantine at monitor twice a day ang kaniyang fever. Minomonitor naman daw siya ng ating NCR Regional Health Office," Duque said about Zubiri's condition.
The Health chief added he would have wanted Zubiri to undergo another test if only there was no limitation to the testing capacity.
“Meron din nakakalusot na false positive. Gusto ko ipaulit ito,” he said.
In the meantime, Duque urged Zubiri to continue with the quarantine measure.
“Tapusin niya ang 10 araw pa dahil ang mahalaga wala siyang sintomas,” he said.
Gatchalian and Binay urged the public to follow government protocol, especially while Luzon is under a month-long "enhanced community quarantine" to quell the spread of the virus to other parts of the country.
"Hinihikayat pa rin natin ang lahat na huwag na munang lumabas sa kanilang mga bahay, mag practice ng social distancing, at ugaliing maghugas ng kamay for 20 seconds," Binay said.
"Hinihikayat ko po ang lahat na sumunod sa mga panuntunan na inilatag ng ating gobyerno para hindi na lumobo ang bilang ng mga kaso ng COVID-19," Gatchalian said.
The Philippines is under a state of public health emergency as the government continues to find ways to contain the virus, described as a global pandemic.
As of March 16, 142 people in the Philippines have been infected by the virus. Twelve died, 3 recovered, while the rest remain confined in hospitals.