Lorenzana, Puyat on self-quarantine after exposure to COVID-19-infected exec

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Lorenzana, Puyat on self-quarantine after exposure to COVID-19-infected exec
This composite photo shows Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat at the sidelines of a press briefing early this March and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana delivering a national Defense college of the Philippines Alumni forum on Feb. 4, 2019.
Philstar.com / Rosette Adel; The Star / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The heads of the Department of National Defense and Department of Tourism will undergo self-quarantine effective Friday after being exposed to Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. who tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he had close proximity with Santos during the turnover of medical supplies at the Villamor Airbase last March 21 and the second was last Monday at the General Headquarters and at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang, Manila.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, on the other hand, said she was last exposed to Santos in a meeting held last March 20.

Both Lorenzana and Puyat said they are asymptomatic, or do not have any symptoms of the fatal coronavirus.

“I have no symptoms but protocol says I have to self-quarantine for 14 days,” Lorenzana said.

Puyat, for her part, said she will not have herself tested for COVID-19.

“Since I do not show any signs nor symptoms, I will not be having myself tested in order to save the limited supply of testing kits to people who truly need it,” Puyat said.

“By staying at home, I will not put anyone I come in contact with at risk. The safety of those around me is my priority,” she added.

Puyat assured the public that her self-quarantine will not stop her from doing her job.

“We, in the Department of Tourism (DOT), have been working remotely from each other since the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine,” the tourism chief said.

“Our locations will not beset us from fulfilling our duties to serve our tourists and stakeholders in this time of need,” she added.

Meanwhile, Presidential Security Group chief Col. Jesus Durante III recommended a lockdown of the Malacañang Complex. He also asked all PSG personnel to undergo quarantine as precautionary measure against COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country, several officials announced that they have contracted the coronavirus disease.

Aside from Santos, among the officials who recently tested positive are Senators Miguel Zubiri, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Sonny Angara, as well as House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap (ACT-CIS Rep), Rep. Henry Villarica (4th District, Bulacan), among others.

The country has so far recorded 707 COVID-19 cases, 45 deaths and 28 recoveries.

The DOH which only conducts around 200 tests daily was earlier criticized for supposedly prioritizing VIP on COVID-19 detection despite limited supply of test kits and few diagnostic laboratories.

The health agency, however, denied the allegations last Monday saying “that there is no policy for VIP treatment and that all specimens are being processed on a first-in, first-out basis.”

It said the “criteria for testing all patients follows published screening protocols. But it also said there is “courtesy accorded to officials holding positions of national security and public health.”

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted that some politicians directly asked the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the main testing laboratory, to run COVID-19 tests on them.

“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 said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

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