–AND GERARD NAVAL
INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año, one of the key figures in the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
It was Año himself who made the announcement. He said he wanted “to call the attention of all persons I had close contact with to go on self-quarantine and observe any symptoms, in accordance with DOH guidelines.”
“To all those concerned, I am doing fine and have no symptoms. I will continue my quarantine and work from home. The result of my test will not in any way dampen my spirit and energy to do my job,” he said.
Also testing positive for COVID-19 was former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Año’s disclosure came after the Department of Health reported that there were 2,084 COVID-19 cases as of 4 p.m. of Tuesday, with the addition of 538 cases. The number of fatalities also rose to 88 from 78 on Monday. There were seven new recoveries, bringing the total to 49.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the sharp rise in the number of cases can be attributed to the better testing capacity of the government. She noted the opening of the five sub-national laboratories along with the improved capabilities of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Globally, the coronavirus has killed infected at least 693,200 and killed at least 33,100 in 204 countries and territories as of Monday, according to the World Health Organization.
Año said he underwent testing on March 27 after he got in contact with four people who tested for COVID-19, including AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr and Jojo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. Santos and Garcia are also on quarantine.
Año said he got the test results Tuesday from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
“I will continue my home quarantine, I will continue working from home. I’m okay and I don’t have symptoms,” said Año in a phone interview.
All 10 new fatalities are Filipinos. Eight of the 10 are male, while the other two are female.
Four of the 10 fatalities had no travel history, while the six others are with unknown travel history.
Vergeire said they expect more cases to be confirmed in the coming days after the DOH decided to include all health workers showing COVID-19 symptoms in the list of persons under investigation (PUIs).
“We appeal to our healthcare facilities, let us protect our healthcare workers. They are now included in our protocol on who should be tested for COVID-19 even if they only have mild symptoms,” said Vergeire.
Others considered as PUIs are those with history of travel in the past 14 days to countries with local transmission, history of exposure with a confirmed case, and has symptoms of respiratory illness (cough and/or colds) and/or fever.
However, those requiring immediate COVID-19 testing and hospitalization are those with severe symptoms of respiratory illness (cough and/or colds) and/or fever, elderly, immunocompromised, and those with pre-existing condition.
Año said he and Santos identified breach of protocol involving a military official. The unnamed official, who appeared to have infected Santos, did not subject himself to quarantine after he went to the Middle East.
“There’s a general who tested positive. He infected General Santos. That general broke the protocol of self-quarantine. That’s the reality.One mistake and there will be a chain (of infections),” he said.
Sources said the officer was actually a Navy commodore (equivalent to brigadier general in the Army) assigned at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
Año said President Duterte is already aware of his COVID-19 test. He said Duterte told him to “to continue my quarantine and stay at home, work from home. Malacañang is really concerned and in fact they said if need medicine, they’re going to provide it.”
“My message to the people is to stay at home. This is not really joke time. It is really very serious. It is only the commitment of everyone. Stay at home and
Marcos’ lawyer, Victor Rodriguez, said results for the test conducted on March 22 were released by the RITM on March 28.
Rodriguez said Marcos arrived in the country from a trip to Europe on March 13 and has not been feeling well since. The following day (March 14), Marcos went to a hospital for a checkup but instead did not push through with the test due to a big number of patients waiting to also have themselves checked.
He went back on March 22 to the same hospital as he experienced difficulty in breathing. It was then that his attending doctors conducted a COVID-19 test on the former senator.
Rodriguez said Marcos was not confined and is recuperating in his house, adding that the former senator went on self-quarantine from the day he got back in the country on March 13.
Talks that Marcos Jr. was sick circulated Wednesday last week, with some even suggesting that the former senator was intubated at a hospital in Taguig City due to pneumonia. Marcos’ wife, Liza, has belied the reports.
Four more policemen, who performed duties to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in Metro Manila, have been infected with the virus, bringing to seven the number of cops who contracted the disease.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the four policemen are all assigned in Metro Manila and aged 53, 52, and 47 and 46. All, but the 47-year-old,are all male.
“Yes, (they are) all frontliners,” Banac said of the four policemen who tested positive for COVID-19. He said the four were either deployed in checkpoints or have been assigned to conduct patrols.
Banac said the four are commissioned and non-commissioned officers “but no specific numbers (breakdown) provided from our (PNP) Health Services.”
“They are in good condition, recuperating and under strict monitoring by police doctors,” Banac said of the four policemen who were found to be COVID-19 positive. — With Raymond Africa