On a ‘positive’ note
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - April 3, 2020 - 12:00am

During these times of the 2019 coronavirus, or COVID-19 contagion, it is difficult to give someone the advice to remain “positive” on the matter. Instead of warm smile of appreciation, you might even get lynched for seemingly wishing him or her to be “positive” with COVID-19 infection.

Levity aside, we should all be glad to be informed that many of Cabinet and other top officials of President Rodrigo Duterte turned negative on their COVID-19 infection tests. This is except for Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año who was the first Cabinet official to be tested “positive” for COVID-19 infection.

A retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, Año got his COVID-19 infection from close contact with incumbent AFP chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. who turned “positive” for COVID-19 infection. Santos is the common denominator of all Cabinet and other government officials who like Año also got close contact with him in one meeting they all attended with President Duterte at Malacanang more than two weeks ago. 

They included Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles; Senator and concurrent Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Archie Gamboa, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process who is also retired AFP chief of staff, just to name some of them. They all went into a 14-day self-quarantine.

So far, Lorenzana, Lopez, Galvez, and Gamboa proudly announced – with heaves of sigh of relief – they got “negative” results of their COVID-19 infection tests. They can now end their self-quarantine and return to their respective offices and resume their duties after reportedly been working-from-home while waiting for the COVID-19 test results. 

That is, if there is no more blooper results of COVID-19 test from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). This one stray error though is forgivable over more than 13,000 tests so far done by the RITM since day one of the COVID-19 outbreak reached our shores here in the Philippines in January.

While also still under quarantine, Puyat and Nograles opted not to undergo COVID-19 tests, citing they are asymptomatic or showing no signs of serious symptoms of this flu-like infectious disease. Aside from being much younger than their Cabinet colleagues, both are also obviously workaholic officials. They remain, however, as among those called as persons under investigation (PUIs).

Santos though has remained under home quarantine to his quarters since March 27 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City while under the monitoring military doctors of V.Luna Hospital.

Some of our lawmakers in the 18th Congress are also COVID-19 infected. Senate majority leader Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III are all currently isolated in various hospitals for COVID-19 infection. 

According to Año, he seems to be asymptomatic, too. Even wearing ionizer hanging from his neck apparently, the 58-year-old Año still fell victim to this faceless enemy that President Duterte calls as the COVID-19 “veerus.” The gadget is supposed to clean the oxygen and air within one meter that the wearer breathes in. 

 It is like the one being worn also by 75-year-old President Duterte who reportedly also does not relish the idea of taking a second COVID-19 test. The Chief Executive tested negative along with Sen. Go the first time both of them underwent COVID-19 testing together in Malacanang. His reluctance is understandable. 

Just imagine how one is tested for COVID-19 infection.

A complete test involves taking a swab of the inner linings of your throat as well go deep into one’s nostrils to get sample of microbes, and germs. And if the swab catches even a miniscule amount of COVID-19 “veerus,” you become automatically “positive” for the infection. Since it is medically established COVID-19 infection has at least 14-day incubation period – especially if you happen to be asymptomatic – one is required to undergo at least two weeks of isolation. 

This is the period when you are most infectious to people, even the healthy ones you get in close contact with.

Much earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Department of Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin Diokno, and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar underwent self-quarantine after getting in close contact with a fellow government functionary who later turned out to be COVID-19 positive. Fortunately for all of them, their COVID-19 test results were all negative. 

Unlike his fellow Duterte economic advisers, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia unilaterally decided to self-quarantine. The 76-year-old Cabinet official belongs to the age group of senior citizens who are most vulnerable to complications of COVID-19 infection.

A common thread also of these Cabinet and government officials is that many, if not all of them are members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III was also forced to undergo self-quarantine after one of his directors at the DOH with whom he had close contact turned positive. Duque, who chairs the IATF-EID, was given a clean bill of health last March 22.

By the way, Año is Duque’s deputy at the IATF-EID and also as vice chairman of 71-year-old Lorenzana in the National Task Force on COVID-19 created to operationalize the policy recommendations of the IATF-EID once approved by the President. The 57-year-old Galvez, on the other hand, is the designated “chief implementer” of the National Action Plan “to flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases in our country.

On a positive note, we take the words of these Cabinet and other government officials about the clean bills of health that they are free from any COVID-19 infection.

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