Home-quarantined Philippines health chief assures sustained gov't work vs. COVID-19

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2020 03:05 PM

MANILA — Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said his need to self-quarantine should not have any effect on the work of the government's inter-agency body overseeing the country's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Duque, who heads the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), went on home quarantine starting Wednesday after a health official who he had interacted with was found positive for COVID-19.

A health department official said Duque is asthmatic and hypertensive, two of the pre-existing conditions that may put people at risk for the new respiratory disease that has spread out of China to more than 160 countries and territories since December last year.

“So, kahit wala ako, tuloy ang kanilang pagpupulong para tugunan ang mga gaps or issues na lumulutang matapos magsagawa ng community quarantine,” Duque told ABS-CBN news in a phone interview on Thursday.

(Even if I am not there, the meetings continue to address the gaps and issues pertaining to the community quarantine.)

The worsening outbreak of the disease in the country, which already includes cases of community transmission, has prompted the declaration of a lockdown for the entire main island of Luzon since Tuesday, on the recommendation of the IATF-EID.

Duque said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año are also able to lead the meetings of the task force.

The health minister said he will acquire a teleconferencing facility that will allow him to continue working.

“Kahapon pa tinututukan ko yung ating paparating na test kits, kasi yun yung pinakamahalagang mga measures na we need to put in place to ensure adequacy or yung sapat yung ating kakayahan na magsuri ng mga nose and throat swabs,” he said.

(I have been monitoring since yesterday the arrival of the test kits because that is the most important measure we can put in place to ensure that we have the capability to test nose and throat swabs.)

While other health officials have also been put under quarantine, Duque said there was no need for IATF officials to do the same.

“I always maintain distance,” he said, explaining that IATF meetings with the President have them seated 3 meters away. “There is always alcohol and we always wash our hands. Everyone at the IATF observes precautionary measures.”

Duque said he is not experiencing any symptoms and is just taking precautionary measures with his home quarantine.

While he expects to receive the test results in four days, he said he will complete his 14-day quarantine to be sure.

He encouraged the public to eat healthy food such as malunggay (moringa), saying only a healthy body can combat the COVID-19 disease, which does not have a cure or vaccine yet.

He reiterated that most COVID-19 patients experience mild symptoms and can recover. — With a report from Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News