MANILA (UPDATE) - The Senate is reviewing its health protocols after Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa and at least one visitor recently tested positive for COVID-19, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Monday.
Disinfection of the Senate Building in Pasay City is done "almost daily" after Dela Rosa and an executive official who attended budget deliberations last week contracted the respiratory illness, Sotto told reporters in a text message.
"I ordered a review. Secretariat already checking on effectivity of protocols," he said.
"This past week, entire Senate was disinfected," he said.
In March, the Senate relaxed the chamber's rules and allowed senators to participate in hearings and plenary sessions through video conferencing to curb the spread of the highly-contagious disease in the building.
By mid-2020, acrylic panels were installed in the Senate's lobby and in the plenary hall to comply with the government's mandate to place plastic barriers on counters and tables to limit possible infections as the virus is transmitted through droplets from an infected person's mouth or nose.
Temperature checks and disinfection stations were also placed in different parts of the building.
Senators and staff are subjected to occasional COVID-19 testing, especially during big events, including the opening of the 18th Congress' second regular session in July.
Despite these measures, Dela Rosa - who said that he may have contracted the disease from his house helper - was able to enter the building and join other senators in budget debates in plenary last week.
"We are reviewing the protocols. Baka mas mahigpit pa ang gagawin natin... Hindi na puwede yung rapid test. You must be PCR-tested na negative ka," Sotto said.
(We might have to make it stricter... We can no longer accept rapid tests. You must have a PCR test that shows you're negative.)
"'Yung mga bodyguard, o yung mga alalay, hindi na papasakayin sa elevator. Senador na lang kasi yung mga bodyguard, exposed sa labas," he added.
(Bodyguards and staff may no longer be allowed to ride elevators. Only senators will be allowed in elevators because bodyguards are exposed outside.)
The Senate is also considering if lawmakers and resource persons should not be allowed to remove their face masks even when delivering manifestations during committee hearings and plenary sessions, Sotto said.
Dela Rosa is the fifth senator who tested positive for COVID-19.
Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sonny Angara, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. have also contracted the disease, and recuperated earlier this year.
From the archives: