Duterte admits being very worried about possible mass infections due to Omicron

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte admits being very worried about possible mass infections due to Omicron
Filipino shoppers flock to Quiapo in Manila City on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021 to purchase round fruits and other goods in preparation for New Year's Day celebrations.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday admitted being worried about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as the country recorded increases in the number of infections during the holidays.

During the signing of the P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, Duterte said the Omicron variant, which caused the surge in the number of infections in other countries, might "intrude into the budget" and require more expenditures.

"It’s just a little bit worrisome but I am afraid of this Omicron because it has been spreading in all areas around the world," Duterte said.

"If we are hit with the easy transmission of the character of this mutant, we will have again the same problem. I said though it is not, they say, a lethal mutant or microbe, well, I am just giving you...what is bothering me. It might translate into... again, for government to pour again the resources of the new resurgence of COVID-19 with another form," he added.

Duterte cited the need to prepare for the possible spread of Omicron and called on Congress to pass laws that would address the problem.

"It’s not a matter of predicting how many will die, but rather preparing for how many people that will be affected by this mutant...I just hope that we will cope...if ever, but we can hardly, you know, this budget might lose its elbow room to respond to the new challenge of a new variant of the COVID-19," the President said.

"It’s what worrying me. Otherwise, it's OK. If it comes, it stares eyeball to eyeball with us... Eventually Congress would be the one who would handle this thing. You have to pass the laws that will be needed, I said, to cope...with this new problem looming in the horizon," he added.


In the same event, Duterte apologized to Senate President Vicente Sotto III for a "ruckus" that apparently happened before the signing of the 2022 budget.  

"Senate President Vicente Sotto, are you here? I would like to apologize for the ruckus. It's not the fault - they are very strict. Well, that is their job so if there are lapses, I apologize to you publicly," Duterte said without elaborating.

Many officials and lawmakers who attended the signing ceremony reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in their antigen tests even if they had negative RT-PCR test results. Complying with pandemic protocols, Sotto decided to go home but was convinced to stay on after Duterte asked the Presidential Security Group to accept the RT-PCR tests.

“Well, it's best that we retain health protocols and not be complacent,” Sotto told The STAR.

Nograles confirmed that the "ruckus" had something to do with testing protocols but was silent on other details.

"Visitors and guests who wish to meet the President inside the Palace or attend a Palace engagement where the President is present must show a negative RT-PCR test result," Nograles said when asked about the context of Duterte's apology to Sotto.  

"In addition, visitors and guests have to undergo antigen testing inside Malacañang as part of their second screening. This forms part of the Palace health and safety protocol," he added.

The signing ceremony ended with Duterte posing for photo opportunities with officials and lawmakers, all of them wearing face masks.




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