Defense Secretary Lorenzana tests negative for coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana tested negative for the novel coronavirus, he told reporters on Tuesday night, March 31.

"Guys, my test came out today. I am negative of the COVID-19 virus. On the advice of the doctor I will complete my quarantine until April 6," he said in a message to defense beat reporters.

Lorenzana went on self-quarantine starting last Friday, March 27, after Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr tested positive for the virus.

The defense chief said he and Santos had close contact the previous Sunday, March 22, and Monday, March 23, when they attended events at Camp Aguinaldo and in Malacañang.

Lorenzana is a key figure in the government's efforts to fight the pandemic. He is chair and commander of the National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19, which employs the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council's (NDRRMC) organizational structure to mobilize different agencies.

As defense chief, Lorenzana is the chairperson of the NDRRMC, and he supervises the AFP.

He urged people to pray for Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who tested positive for the virus earlier on Tuesday. Año is vice chair of NTF COVID-19.

Santos asymptomatic

Santos, meanwhile, is asymptomatic of COVID-19, AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told Rappler in a message.

"Truth to tell is he is on top of the many matters for decision, implementation, and supervision not limited to COVID-19. The AFP has other operational priorities that needs his attention for command, control, and management," Arevalo said.

Santos is on home quarantine in his residence inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The military is among the government's frontliners in responding to the pandemic, with a more prominent role under the newly-formed NTF COVID-19.

Besides this, the AFP is on guard against the communist-led New People's Army (NPA) even amid a ceasefire due to the pandemic. Although the NPA acceded to the truce, the military remains wary that guerrillas may regroup and strike at government forces if they are caught unawares.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has 2,084 coronavirus cases, with 88 deaths and 49 recoveries. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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