Duterte security aide tests positive, recovers from coronavirus

Pia Ranada
Duterte security aide tests positive, recovers from coronavirus
At least 90 Presidential Security Group personnel test positive through rapid tests but negative in more stringent swab tests. They were put in isolation in a building in the Malacañang complex.

Not even President Rodrigo Duterte’s security personnel have been spared from the novel coronavirus.

According to a Malacañang official, at least one member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) tested positive for the virus but has since recovered.

PSG chief Colonel Jose Durante III later on confirmed the details in this story. He added that the PSG member who tested positive had “no exposure” to Duterte.

Ninety close-in PSG personnel have so far tested positive using the rapid test kit, which only tests for specific antibodies produced by the body to fight off the coronavirus. 

Those who tested positive then underwent the more accurate reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) swab test. The lone PSG member who tested positive in Davao City was confined, then eventually recovered.

The 90 who tested positive in the rapid test but negative in the RT-PCR test went on isolation for 14 days in a separate building in the PSG compound within the Malacañang complex.

The PSG barracks is located beside Bahay Pangarap, Duterte’s official residence in Metro Manila.

“They are confined at least 14 days in a separate building. Then they undergo PCR tests. If negative in the swab test, they are released for work,” said the Palace official.

COVID-19 is uniquely dangerous because of its high infection rate and because it can be transmitted by people who feel no symptoms. 

But the PSG has supposedly established a protocol to monitor any spread of the virus among its staff.

The current protocol is for designated close-in PSG personnel – the PSG members who are in actual contact with the President on a regular basis – to undergo PCR tests, then rapid tests every month before reporting for duty.

Three rounds of RT-PCR testing have been conducted for PSG close-in personnel.

Since March 26, PSG commander Durante had ordered PSG personnel not to leave the Malacañang complex after a lawmaker who had not yet gotten his coronavirus test results attended a meeting in the Palace.

The lawmaker, ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap, tested positive a few days later, but the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which processed his test results, eventually announced this was a clerical error and Yap was actually negative for the virus. (READ: LIST: PH officials in quarantine, affected by coronavirus)

Duterte tested negative for the virus last March 31. The Palace has not announced any new tests for the President but the source says he has undergone at least two tests so far. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.