Duque: ‘VIPs’ directly requested to get tested for COVID-19

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Duque: âVIPsâ directly requested to get tested for COVID-19
Market-goers at Barangay Quirino 3A in Project 3, Quezon City observe social distancing on March 22, 2020. The Health Department reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the total number of cases in the Philippines to 380 as of March 22, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Some politicians directly asked the country’s lone diagnostic lab for the new coronavirus to run tests to determine if they contracted the dreaded disease, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday.

This, amid simmering public anger over the reported special treatment given to some of the country’s prominent personalities despite limited number of test kits and as some patients under observation die without seeing their test results.

“There were direct request made to the RITM by the ‘VIP’. I have no details of each one of them that had requested for testing,” Duque told CNN Philippines, referring to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Senators, local officials and other public servants received backlash after they reportedly used their positions to get tested despite not showing any symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — a strict qualification that other patients have to follow.

In the same television interview on Tuesday, Duque said the “VIPs” got tested after they qualified in the initial set of criteria imposed by the Health department, which allowed testing even for those with no symptoms of the infection. The testing protocols were later tightened so that only those manifesting symptoms will be accommodated, he explained.

Duque also said he was told that the RITM had to pause testing “for a while” to prevent an “epidemic” in laboratories amid the dramatic surge in number of patients, resulting in the delayed release of test results.

 “The actual underlying issue is the lack of testing. But that issue should be over precisely because we have 100,000 new test kits that have arrived last Saturday,” Duque said.

The government earlier announced it is set to open five new testing centers across the archipelago this week to accelerate COVID-19 diagnosis.

As of Monday afternoon, the Department of Health reported 82 new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, the highest daily jump for the country so far, which brought the national tally to 462. Of those, 33 died due to infection complications while 18 recovered.


As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 20, 2022 - 12:59pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

September 20, 2022 - 12:59pm

Hong Kong's leader says he will soon make a decision on further relaxing coronavirus restrictions, as residents and businesses decry quarantine rules that have kept the finance hub cut off for more than two years.

"We will make a decision soon and announce to the public," chief executive John Lee tells reporters. 

"We want to be connected with the different places in the world. We would like to have an orderly opening up," he adds.

Hong Kong has adhered to a version of China's strict zero-Covid rules throughout the pandemic, battering the economy and deepening the city's brain drain as rival business hubs reopen.

It maintains mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals -- currently at three days -- widespread masking, business operating limits and bans on more than four people gathering in public. — AFP

September 19, 2022 - 2:37pm

Millions of people in the Chinese megacity of Chengdu emerged Monday from a Covid-19 lockdown that had closed schools, disrupted businesses and forced residents to stay home for over two weeks.

With a population of 21 million, southwest China's Chengdu is the largest Chinese city to shut down since global finance hub Shanghai imposed a strict two-month lockdown in April, leaving many residents scrambling for food.

China is the last major economy welded to a zero-Covid strategy and officials are under pressure to curb virus flare-ups swiftly ahead of a key political meeting in mid-October.

"With the joint efforts of the whole city, the epidemic has been effectively controlled," the Chengdu government said in a statement Sunday.

Government departments, public transport services and companies were able to resume work on Monday, the statement said, after shutting down on September 1. -- AFP

September 14, 2022 - 12:55pm

As the Philippines starts easing its mask wearing mandate, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) says it still encourages the public to wear face masks in open spaces and outdoors.

"MMDA Acting Chairman Engr. Carlo Dimayuga III said that the wearing of face masks protects us not only against the COVID-19 virus but also from pollution," the agency says in a statement.

September 12, 2022 - 1:47pm

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has allowed the voluntary use of face masks in outdoors, non-crowded areas, his Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles says.

“Naglabas po tayo today ng Executive Order No. 3 allowing voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings and reiterating the continued implementation of minimum public health standards during the State of Public Health Emergency relating to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cruz-Angeles says in a Palace briefing.

Cruz-Angeles says the policy covers non-crowded places, but immunocompromised, senior citizens and those who have yet to complete vaccines are strongly encouraged to wear face masks

September 7, 2022 - 2:02pm

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles says the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases decided for the liberalization of mask mandate and “make mask wearing voluntary across the country.”

Cruz-Angeles adds this is a recommendation of the IATF and still not a policy.

She stresses this is for outdoors and in open spaces with good ventilation provided that senior citizens and immunocompromised are highly encouraged to wear their masks.

This will be pilot-tested towards the last quarter of 2022, “provided na may improvement as COVID-19 booster coverage,” she adds.

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