Senator adds to 142 virus infections

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday said he tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) but showed no symptoms of the disease. The news came as the number of infections rose to 142 and the number of deaths hit 12.

“I had a test taken last Friday while on self-quarantine and this afternoon I received a call from [Health] Secretary [Francisco] Duque on my condition,” Zubiri said in a Facebook statement. “My heart sank with what he had said but I’m uplifted [by] the fact that I am asymptomatic and have no fever or cough.”

Zubiri said his decision to go into self-quarantine Wednesday was the best decision he made, as this would have protected his family from contamination.

He said he was infected despite taking the usual precautions against the virus.

“How, I do not know,” he said. “This just goes to show how easily this virus is spread and therefore it is best for everyone to stay home and stay clean.”

Zubiri said he would stay in isolation for 10 more days until he is clear of the virus.

“I hope my coming out will show how dangerously infectious this virus is,” he said.

As the number of infections continued to rise, the Department of Health said almost 40 percent of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had no exposure to known infected cases.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told radio dzBB they were still trying to identify the index cases who spread the infection in the country.

At the same time, Vergeire said people with mild symptoms—having a cough, sore throat, runny nose and colds or fever—would be allowed to go home for self-declared quarantine. This was being done to limit their exposure to patients in a hospital or health facility, she said.

So far, she said, six of the current 140 people infected with COVID-19 have been allowed to undergo home quarantine, but they will still be strictly monitored.

Most of the 140 have mild symptoms, Vergeire said.

Severe symptoms include difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. Critical cases are those who need equipment to help them breathe.

But Palace Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government is planning to isolate all confirmed cases to one facility to control the spread of the virus, after the number of fatalities climbed to 12 on Monday.

He said he would propose the plan to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Panelo said he and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año had recommended to place Metro Manila under lockdown to effectively control and stop the spread of the deadly virus.

The proposed metro-wide lockdown will likely include work stoppage and closure of establishments, Panelo said.

“The only way to stop this is for us to help ourselves. We are the potential carriers of the virus. We have to restrict the movement, otherwise this will spread,” he said.

The Government Service Insurance System, meanwhile, declared a lockdown at its main office in Pasay City until April 15 after one of its regular employees, a female, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“The GSIS Branch Office on Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City, will also be closed to the public for the same 30-day period,” said GSIS vice president for corporate communications Marge Jorillo said.

GSIS also ordered work suspended in its branches office in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City, after several employees experienced symptoms. The employees are awaiting the results of their tests.

GSIS president and general manager Rolando Ledesma Macasaet emphasized that all other GSIS branch offices and extension offices nationwide remain open to the public.

In related developments:

•  The Department of Health in Davao Region (DOH-11) confirmed on Sunday the first case of COVID-19 in Region 11. The confirmed case, a 21-year-old female, arrived in the Philippines on Feb. 29 from the United Kingdom after a layover in Doha, Qatar. She was transferred and admitted for isolation and testing at a referral hospital March 10 and is currently in stable condition, the DOH said.

• The 444 Filipino crew members and passengers aboard the M/V Grand Princess from San Francisco, were taken to the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac for a 14-day quarantine after arriving in Manila on a chartered plane. The DOH said the repatriates would be restricted to the New Athletes Village before they would be allowed to go back to their respective homes. They will also undergo the same protocol applied to the first and second batches of repatriates—the 30 Filipinos from Wuhan, and the more than 400 Filipinos from MV Diamond Princess from Yokohama, Japan.

•  China, where the virus first emerged, has shipped 2,000 fast test kits for COVID-19 to Manila on Monday and is expected to provide more test kits in the coming days, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Monday. The test kits, developed by China BGI Group, can produce results in three hours. China has vowed to help other countries hit by the COVID-19 including Italy and Spain. 

Topics: Juan Miguel Zubiri , novel coronavirus , Francisco Duque , self-quarantine
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