DTI chief gets COVID-19 for 2nd time

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
DTI chief gets COVID-19 for 2nd time
“I regret to inform you I tested positive again. Got result just this morning…(I have) been wearing mask, shield and distancing outside home but still got hit,” he said in a Viber message to reporters yesterday, adding that he immediately started isolation after learning of the result.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — For the second time, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I regret to inform you I tested positive again. Got result just this morning…(I have) been wearing mask, shield and distancing outside home but still got hit,” he said in a Viber message to reporters yesterday, adding that he immediately started isolation after learning of the result.

Lopez was supposed to leave for Tacloban City yesterday to join President Duterte in the
distribution of livelihood kits from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to former rebels.

Although he is asymptomatic, he said he would not be taking part in any physical meetings and would only join those held virtually. The first time he tested positive for COVID-19 was in December last year.

Lopez has been strongly pushing for the reopening of more sectors of the economy while observing health protocols, to help bring back jobs for economic recovery.

He earlier called for the easing of age restrictions on individuals allowed to step outside their homes to get more consumers to spend and spur economic activity.

Three administration congressmen, including a key leader of the House of Representatives, also tested positive for COVID and are now in isolation.

The latest addition to the list was House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, whose office issued a statement late Wednesday confirming the positive result of his reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

Before him, Reps. Jocelyn Limkaichong of Negros Oriental and Mike Defensor of Anakalusugan both admitted they were infected with COVID-19 but could not ascertain where they got it.

Romualdez underwent confirmatory tests yesterday “to rule out a false positive result.”

“Let me assure those who are concerned with my physical well-being that I am coping well despite experiencing symptoms of the disease, and that I am in high spirits. I urge everyone who had close contact with me to undergo RT-PCR test. I am presently in isolation, and my doctor is closely monitoring my situation. I extend my deepest gratitude to those who are praying for my quick recovery,” Romualdez said.

Limkaichong reported in her social media account Monday that she tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019. “I want to be transparent that I am positive for coronavirus.”

“I am asymptomatic. My family and all those with whom I had close contact with know about my health condition and I strongly urged them to be tested as well. I am now under quarantine in Manila,” she wrote in her post.

She added that she is “taking the necessary steps to recover from the virus” as she lamented that even if she followed “strictly” the health protocols, and “being extra careful in public spaces, I still acquired the virus.”

Defensor, for his part, said he is asymptomatic.

“Luckily, I don’t feel anything bad at all. No shortness of breath. Taste and smell never left me, no high fever and lowering of oxygen level…Everything is normal. I just had a flu for one day,” he pointed out.

The former presidential chief of staff said he tested positive about two weeks ago and that he has been recovering during this time. Defensor said he is okay now and is just waiting for one more RT-PCR test to confirm if he has recovered.

In response to the surge of COVID cases in Metro Manila, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco placed the entire House of Representatives under a four-day lockdown starting yesterday.

“We have decided to place the entire Batasan Complex on a temporary lockdown from March 18 to 21 as a precautionary measure to protect the health and safety of House members and employees in view of the alarming increase in Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila,” he said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development central office in Batasan Hills, Quezon City will also go on a three-day lockdown starting today to undergo an all-out disinfection in the complex.

Felicisimo Budiongan, DSWD Undersecretary for Disaster Response Management, said the lockdown was recommended to address the “spiraling” number of cases in the department and to give way for the “conduct of a massive disinfection of the workplace” starting today until Sunday.

The Court of Appeals is also suspending work over the same period after recording 18 active cases.

CA Presiding Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando approved the proposal of Associate Justice Ramon Garcia, who chairs the CA’s COVID-19 Response Committee, to suspend work and allow a more thorough disinfection of the offices and buildings in the Appellate Court.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also ordered work suspension at the main office compound along Padre Faura Street in Manila from today until Tuesday.

“I’m constrained to order another suspension of on-site work at the DOJ. We have seven new cases today, bringing the total active cases to 17. Everyone will work from home, except a skeletal staff who will receive documents and attend to other frontline services,” he said.

Since the start of the COVID-19 last year, the DOJ has recorded a total of 35 cases.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr is planning to finish his 14-day quarantine at home since he remains asymptomatic as he denied getting a VIP treatment in a quarantine hotel.

“I’m noticing that I am the only one who seems asymptomatic here and everyone else has symptoms. So, I’m conferring with my doctor actually if I’m better off staying here or if I should go home,” he said.

Roque countered a social media report that he was billeted in a presidential suite at a posh hotel in Pasay City. “That’s fake news. I’m in San Juan along Annapolis Street.” He added that he is in a quarantine hotel, which has been “hired by the government to house mild and asymptomatic patients.” – Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Rainier Allan Ronda, Evelyn Macairan, Miriam Desacada

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