Coronavirus exposure prompts PH economic officials to self-quarantine

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Some members of President Rodrigo Duterte's economic team are undergoing self-quarantine, following exposure to a patient who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

These officials include Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, as well as Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Vince Dizon, presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects as well as president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, is under self-quarantine as well.

None of them have reported any symptoms, so far.

Dominguez earlier told reporters on Wednesday night, March 11, that he would be imposing self-quarantine, after shaking the hand of a COVID-19 patient last week.

"You may wish to follow suit," Dominguez advised beat reporters.

Avisado also placed himself under quarantine after he attended the government's economic cluster meeting last Tuesday, March 10.

"The protocol requires that I go on self-quarantine so I am doing it," Avisado told reporters on Thursday.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, March 12, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Pernia "has gone on self-quarantine as a precautionary measure," even if "he had no close contact" with COVID-19 patients.

"The NEDA management is tracing officials and employees who were with the persons confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 during two separate meetings held last March 5 and 6, 2020," the agency said.

"All concerned NEDA officials and employees who came in close contact with (were within one meter from) the said virus-infected persons were also advised to go on self-quarantine."

Work at the NEDA Central Office was suspended from Thursday to Friday, March 13, for disinfection and sanitation procedures.

Meanwhile, Diokno also announced on Thursday that he would be isolating himself, as he was with Dominguez and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade last week. Tugade is also under self-quarantine.

They were at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbor Link inspection ceremony last March 5.

"I am glad to share that I am well and not manifesting any symptoms, although I also decided to go on self-quarantine as a precautionary measure," Diokno said in a statement on Thursday.

The BSP also suspended work at its head office and Security Plant Complex from Thursday to Friday for "thorough preventive sanitation."

"We have ensured, however, that vital BSP services needed by the financial system continue. Hence, open market operations, PhilPass settlement, as well as the servicing of bank withdrawals are being performed business as usual," Diokno added.

The Department of Public Works and Highways likewise said on Thursday that Secretary Mark Villar will go on self-quarantine.

Villar was at the same NLEX Harbor Link event. Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and Senator Bong Go were also there.

The President himself will undergo testing for the virus.

As of posting, the Philippines has 49 confirmed coronavirus cases. Two of them have died – a Chinese tourist on February 1, and a Filipina just on Wednesday. – with reports from Sofia Tomacruz and Aika Rey/Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

image