“Today, March 31, I received the result from RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) informing me that I am positive for COVID-19,” Año himself confirmed yesterday.
Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas Jr./File
Año, Bongbong, Virata test positive
Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“Today, March 31, I received the result from RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) informing me that I am positive for COVID-19,” Año himself confirmed yesterday.

The interior chief, who is also vice chairman of the national task force created to reinforce efforts to contain the spread of the disease, underwent COVID testing last Friday.

He went on self-quarantine on the same day after learning the previous day that four persons he had contact with had tested positive for the virus.

Two of them were Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority general manager Jojo Garcia.

“I make this announcement 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 (Department of Health) guidelines,” he said. 

Año said he is doing well and is not experiencing symptoms of the virus. He added that he would continue his 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 added.

Año advised the public to stay at home and strictly follow social distancing to avoid contracting the virus.

Positive but getting better

Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also tested positive for the COVID-19 four days since he was reported to be feeling unwell after coming home from Spain, although his health is getting better.

Marcos’ spokesman and lawyer Victor Rodriguez said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine informed the former senator of the result of his COVID-19 test on March 28.

“Former Sen. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.’s health is improving and he is now feeling better after the RITM informed him of the result of the COVID test,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

He added that Marcos was only one of over a thousand Filipinos infected with the coronavirus undergoing medical treatment in an isolation area.

“Shortly after coming home from Europe, the next day (March 14), he went directly to a private hospital to undergo COVID test as there was already some chest pains. He decided to undergo some tests following the spread of the coronavirus,” Rodriguez said, quoting Marcos.

Rodriguez, however, said Marcos failed to undergo tests as there were too many patients in the private hospital, thus he decided to go home. The spokesman noted that the former senator did not ask for any special treatment or to be prioritized as he thought of other patients who might be feeling much worse than he.

Rodriguez said Marcos stayed isolated in his room and went out on March 22, merely to go to a hospital’s emergency room after he had difficulty breathing. He said it was that day when he underwent COVID tests.

After the test, Rodriguez said Marcos went back to self-quarantine in his room.

“From March 13 up to the present, former senator Marcos observes health protocol as a PUI (person under investigation) and silently doing his self-quarantine and isolated himself from his family, like a simple, responsible and ordinary patient,” Rodriguez said.

On March 26, Marcos’ sister Sen. Imee Marcos confirmed her brother had been feeling unwell after coming home from Spain and has taken the COVID test.

Saying her brother is recovering at home, Imee denied rumors spreading on social media that the family planned to bring him to Singapore in a private aircraft for treatment.

In an official statement, the former senator said he was touched and overwhelmed by the public’s concern over his health.

“Don’t worry, I am doing OK and contrary to popular belief, I am home on self-quarantine. As my sister said, a few days ago, I was feeling a little under the weather and as a result, went to get checked,” he said in a statement released by the office of Imee.

“We are still waiting for the results. Fortunately, I feel much better and am getting stronger by the day. I have no doubt… that this is partly due to the excellent work of the nurses and doctors who helped me during this time,” he said.

In her Facebook account, Liza Araneta-Marcos posted a photo of her husband in bed and holding a newspaper.

The post read, “Thank you for your kind message and show of concern for Bong. Contrary to the rumors currently circulating, my husband is well.”

“Bongbong’s lungs did not collapse. He was not airlifted in Manong Chavit’s plane to get treatment in Singapore. He is not dying. Nor is he dead,” it added, belying reports circulating on social media.

In the same post, Liza said: “Yesterday, we had ourselves and our entire staff tested for COVID-19. Fortunately, we all tested negative.”

Imee said she and her mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, are in good health.

Earlier this month, Imee took the coronavirus test along with other senators. Her camp said they have yet to receive the results.

Virata, Alvarez positive, too

Former finance secretary and prime minister Cesar Virata also tested positive for COVID-19, according to actress Vivian Velez.

In a Facebook post on Monday night, Velez said Virata, who served as finance secretary during the Marcos regime and prime minister in the early ’80s, is currently at the intensive care unit of the St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City in Taguig City.

“Mr. Virata had a stroke a few days ago, then developed pneumonia which progressed. Yesterday, he was confirmed to have COVID-19 and was intubated last night. He is being treated as COVID positive and given medications as prescribed by his infectious diseases specialist Dr. Abad Santos,” she said in her post.

The 89-year-old Virata currently serves as corporate vice chairman of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation.

Meanwhile, employees of the Department of Agrarian Reform have offered prayers to former DAR secretary and senator Heherson Alvarez and his wife Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) founder Cecile Guidote-Alvarez who have also been afflicted with COVID-19.

The couple “are in critical condition,” according to a tweet by CNN Philippines yesterday.

Citing a DAR report, CNN Philippines said the couple are now intubated at a hospital in Manila.

Alvarez, 80, also headed the Climate Change Commission, while Guidote-Alvarez, 76, was a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service in 1972.

DAR employees have offered “get-well-soon prayers” for the former secretary and his wife. The prayers for the immediate recovery of the couple are being recited at the employees’ respective homes as they comply with the government’s strict “stay at home” policy aimed at preventing the further spread of the coronavirus.

500 OFWs from Miami

Meanwhile, more than 500 Filipino seafarers from two Costa ships anchored off the port of Miami in the United States are expected to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on board Ethiopian Airlines flights 8002 and 8020 that left Florida around midnight and at 1 a.m., respectively, yesterday.

The crewmembers from Costa Favolosa and Costa Majica were taken by tender boats to the port of Miami and put on board buses for Orlando airport in Florida.

The overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) boarded two Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777s from Orlando for its final destination, Manila, but had to refuel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in Africa. Each wide-body jet can accommodate more than 300 passengers.

The Filipino crew have been cooling their heels on board the two ships waiting for the charter flights since Sunday, and tensions were already running high among them on their delayed departure for Manila.

The arrival of the two Ethiopian Airlines flights was coordinated by the Department of Transportation, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Health, Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). As of yesterday, however, there had been no information if the crewmembers would still undergo quarantine at an unspecified location or self-quarantine since most of them have been isolated for the past three weeks on board their ships.

Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, OWWA, BOQ, MIAA and IATF-EID have been tasked to assist the Filipino seafarers upon arrival. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Helen Flores, Rhodina Villanueva, Rudy Santos

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