51 SONA cops catch COVID-19

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
51 SONA cops catch COVID-19
Members of the Philippine National Police-Civil Disturbance Management (PNP-CDM), in full battle gear but unarmed, are stationed along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City in preparation for the last state of the nation address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday(July 26, 2021). The PNP deploys 15,000 personnel to secure and maintain peace throughout the duration of Duterte’s final SONA.
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Fifty-one of the 82 members of the Talipapa police station in Quezon City who tested positive for COVID-19 were part of the security contingent deployed during President Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Brig. Gen. Antonio Yarra, director of the Quezon City Police District, said the 51 were among the 118 QCPD Station 3 personnel who underwent swab tests on July 23, three days before Duterte’s SONA.

“Fifty-one of them tested positive but take note, the test was made on July 23,” Yarra said at a press briefing at the QCPD headquarters at Camp Karingal.

Station 3 has 184 personnel, 162 of whom were swabbed for COVID-19.

Yarra said they received the results that the police officers were positive for the virus only on Tuesday and yesterday. It means the 51 were already infected when they were deployed during the SONA while waiting for the results of their swab tests.

When asked if the specimens taken from the police officers were already positive for the virus prior to their deployment, Yarra replied, “Lumalabas yes, pero hindi natin ma-conclude yan because we know for a fact that ‘yung transmission can be evident after five days of close contact.”

Yarra did not explain why they deployed for SONA duty police officers who were still waiting for the results of their swab tests.

He pointed out that the infected police officers are asymptomatic and have been fully vaccinated.

“If police officers are part of the regular testing and they have no symptoms of the virus, they are allowed to render duty,” Philippine National Police deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Joselito Vera Cruz, who heads the PNP’s Administrative Support for COVID-19 Task Force, said.

Vera Cruz said police must adhere to strict minimum public health standards at all times.

But for high-risk contacts of COVID-positive individuals, Vera Cruz said they have to undergo isolation pending swab test results.

Twenty-six of the 51 were stationed across the UP Technohub during Duterte’s SONA. The rest were scattered in other parts of Quezon City.

“Iba-ibang points of deployment. Kinalat natin ‘yan,” Yarra said.

Sought for comment, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes criticized the QCPD for violating public health protocols after it deployed police officers while waiting for the result of their swab tests.

“They violated health protocols. Hindi dapat na-deploy pending swab test results,” Reyes said in a Viber message.

Police said at least 3,000 members of Bayan and other cause-oriented groups took part in demonstrations during Duterte’s SONA.

Yarra said the QCPD personnel who tested positive for COVID-19 have been isolated. Contact tracing efforts are ongoing to locate their close contacts.

Meanwhile, Yarra defended the QCPD when they blocked SONA protesters along Commonwealth Avenue during the SONA.

Mayor Joy Belmonte had ordered Yarra to explain why barriers were set up along Commonwealth, which the protesters said was a breach of their agreement with the city government.

Yarra said police stopped the protesters as they had occupied the entire northbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue, which clogged traffic in the area.

The rallyists were allowed to proceed with their march, Yarra added.

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