Trade chief Lopez, who advocates reopening, gets COVID-19 again

Trade chief Lopez, who advocates reopening, gets COVID-19 again
This file photo shows Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
PPD / Toto Lozano, File

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 1:30 p.m., March 18) — Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez confirmed Thursday he contracted the coronavirus for the second time.

A coronavirus test supposedly meant to clear him to fly to Tacloban to join President Rodrigo Duterte bared the result. Lopez is asymptomatic, just as the case when he first contracted the virus in December and eventually recovered from it.

“I regret to inform you I tested positive again. (I) got result just this morning. I am asymptomatic. Will have another test later to confirm. Hoping false positive,” Lopez said in a statement to reporters sent through Viber.

Asked where he probably caught the virus, Lopez replied: “No idea. Been wearing mask, shield and distancing. No physical event. Just office.”

The latest infection makes Lopez, 60, one of the few survivors who got re-infected by the dreaded virus. The first time he caught it, he was the fourth Cabinet official to have been infected. Just 3 days ago, presidential spokesman Harry Roque also said he too caught the virus and was under quarantine.

Apart from Lopez and Roque, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano all previously tested positive for coronavirus last year. The three had since recovered. 

As the government’s trade and industry chief, Lopez was among the persistent officials pushing for further relaxation of community quarantines to speed up economic recovery. He wanted more businesses to reopen, including at one point cinemas that city and municipal leaders had opposed over fears of contagion.

Apart from Lopez, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua is also at the forefront on the fight to relax more movement restrictions before the more infectious COVID-19 variants derailed that. Chua’s office, the National Economic and Development Authority in Pasig, was placed on lockdown starting Monday this week, also because of rising COVID-19 cases.
For his part, Lopez said he would “continue to avoid physical meetings” while awaiting for a negative coronavirus test. “(I) have immediately started isolation now,” he said. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral


Editor's note: Added more details from Lopez, NEDA background

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