'No one can come close': Roque says Duterte in 'perpetual isolation' due to COVID-19 threat

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2020 03:45 PM | Updated as of Aug 17 2020 04:53 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte meets with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on August 10, 2020. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is in "perpetual isolation," his spokesperson said Monday as safety measures were boosted after one of the leaders of the government's pandemic response strategy fell ill to COVID-19 again.

No one can have close contact with the 75-year-old Duterte without going through the strict precautionary protocols of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), his spokesperson Harry Roque said.

"The President is in perpetual isolation because no one can come close to him," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

"He's in perpetual isolation in the sense that the PSG has done a very good job in making sure that no one really comes close to the President," he added, noting that Duterte undergoes regular swab testing for the virus to ensure his health.

The Palace mouthpiece later clarified that he only used the remark as figure of speech to emphasize the strict health protocols implemented for the President's safety.

'Perpetual isolation' is a figure of speech I used to highlight the prudence exercised by the PSG in safeguarding the physical well-being of the President in this challenging time of COVID-19," he said.

Roque gave the assurance after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año reported that he tested positive anew for the new coronavirus.

Año was among the Cabinet officials present in an Aug. 10 meeting with Duterte in Davao City. The former military chief, who had recovered from COVID-19 in early April, found out that he was infected again over the weekend.

Roque assured the public that Duterte did not have any close contact with Año, while other officials who were also present in the meeting are also on self-isolation.

"Hindi siya (Año) nag-close contact dahil malayo po kaming lahat kay Presidente, at naka-face shield at naka-face mask," Roque said of the Aug. 10 encounter with Duterte.

(He didn't have close contact because we were all far away from the President, and we were wearing face shields and face masks.)

As a precautionary measure, Roque said Duterte would meet virtually with Cabinet officials on Monday night to discuss the quarantine classification of Metro Manila and nearby provinces after Aug. 18.

Roque also belied rumors that Duterte left for Singapore over the weekend for medical consultations, saying the chief executive did not leave the Philippines.

"Nananatili po siya sa Davao. Hindi po siya umaalis ng Pilipinas and his health is fine," Roque said.

(He is in Davao. He has not left the Philippines and his health is fine.)