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Duterte backs out of Boracay visit over coronavirus threat

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will no longer attend his scheduled event in Boracay after health officials reported additional cases of the novel coronavirus, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday night, March 11.

Panelo made the announcement a night before the event was supposed to take place on Thursday, March 12. Duterte was scheduled to make a trip to Boracay to lead the inspection and distribution of certificates of land ownership. 

"In light of the recent developments and after careful review of the situation concerning the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will not proceed to Boracay Island on Thursday, March 12, as earlier scheduled," Panelo said in a statement. 

Panelo said Duterte's visit will instead be moved to a "later date."

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) earlier implemented a “no-touch" policy between Duterte and the public as cases of the coronavirus disease called COVID-19 continued to climb in the Philippines. 

The PSG likewise said it will assess and may cancel large gatherings on Duterte's schedule.

In a late night press conference aimed at explaining the government's efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Duterte had joked he would to go to Boracay for a "swim" with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat

Duterte had also brushed aside the PSG's "no-touch" policy, saying he would not decline invitations to gatherings and would "shake hands with everybody."

The Philippines has so far recorded 49 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday night. Two patients have died. – Rappler.com

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.

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