‘No touch:’ PSG bans close contact with Duterte amid coronavirus outbreak

Sofia Tomacruz
‘No touch:’ PSG bans close contact with Duterte amid coronavirus outbreak
The Presidential Security Group says it will also assess and may cancel large gatherings on President Rodrigo Duterte's schedule

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Security Group (PSG) announced on Monday, March 9, that it will be implementing a “no-touch” policy between President Rodrigo Duterte and the public after health officials reported additional cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines.

PSG Group Commander Coloner Jesus Durante III made the statement in an advisory on Monday, saying the move was part of preventive measures taken to ensure Duterte and his family’s safety.

Durante said that people expected to “get near” Duterte during events and meetings will be subject to “thorough screening” and will be tested for any illnesses and signs of symptoms related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“PSG…is observing these preventive measures based on the guidelines set forth by the Department of Health. PSG Troopers ask for the public’s utmost understanding and cooperation,” Durante said.

Aside from this, the PSG announced it will also assess “large crowd gatherings” where Duterte is scheduled to attend as a guest of honor and speaker. Such events may be cancelled for Duterte and the wider public’s safety.

Durante assured the public that health protocols and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were in place and in effect for all PSG personnel and the entire Malacañang complex.

In various public addresses, Duterte, who is 74-years-old, claimed he suffered from a slew of medical conditions that include myasthenia gravis, Buerger’s disease, Barrett’s esophagus, and “spinal issues,” among others. In October 2018, Duterte also said he tested for cancer but that it came back negative.

Experts earlier said that older adults with preexisting health conditions were more vulnerable to the coronavirus, particularly those aged over 60-years-old.

The Philippines has so far recorded 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including the first death outside of China. Of the remaining 9, two have since recovered and left the country, while the others were being treated.

One patient, a 62-year-old man, was in “very critical condition” as of early Saturday morning, March 7, the DOH said. Having no recent history of travel, he is considered the first case of local transmission in the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, the health department said it has probed a total of 700 patients for possible infection, 48 of whom remain admitted in health facilities across the country while 646 have already been discharged.

Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency in the Philippines amid the rising number of cases. 

Worldwide, the death toll from the coronavirus stood at 3,803, while over 109,000 were infected across 104 countries. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.