Duterte tests negative for coronavirus

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.

Duterte underwent tests for the disease on Thursday, March 12, after several of his Cabinet members, including officials in his inner circle, announced they would isolate themselves after coming into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient. 

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.

Duterte, who is 74 years old, is considered highly at risk for the disease. Duterte had claimed on several occasions that he suffered from a slew of medical conditions that include myasthenia gravis, Buerger's disease, Barrett's esophagus, and "spinal issues," among others.

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

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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