MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte tested negative for the novel coronavirus.
"The results of the tests for COVID-19 conducted on President Rodrigo Duterte and I turned out negative. We are fit and healthy to perform our duties," Duterte's former aide and now Senator Bong Go said in a statement on Friday, March 13.
Before taking the test, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo gave assurances that the President was not showing symptoms of the disease and was only getting tested as a precautionary measure to ensure he was "fit and healthy to perform" his duties.
Experts earlier said that older adults with preexisting health conditions – particularly those over 60 – should take extra precautions against the disease as they were more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
He had earlier scoffed at the Presidential Security Group's advice that he observe a "no-touch" policy during public events as a preventive measure against the disease, saying he would continue to shake hands with everybody.
The President was also supposed to go to Boracay to lead an inspection and to distribute certificates of land ownership on Thursday, even as health officials advised the public to avoid large gatherings. He canceled the trip on Wednesday, after the number of COVID-19 cases in the country neared 50.
Duterte on Monday, March 9, earlier declared a state of public health emergency after health officials announced more confirmed coronavirus cases, including the first case of local transmission in the Philippines.
The Philippines has recorded at least 64 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Friday, March 13. Five people have died.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 134,000 people and killed over 5,000 across 121 countries. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com