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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is in good health, a presidential palace spokesperson said on Thursday, as allies and aides of the 76-year-old sought to dispel rumors about his well-being.
“(The president) remains fit and healthy for his age,” Malacanang spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement, after announcing that 126 members of the president’s security team had tested positive for COVID-19.
“We thank the Filipino people for voicing their concern and wishing the chief executive strength and good health during this time as he continues to discharge his functions as head of the government,” he added.
Duterte’s former aide-turned-Senator Christopher Go also announced that the president had tested negative in his latest swab test last week.
“You have nothing to worry about, but we cannot take chances,” Go said in a message to reporters where he stressed that the president is tested regularly.
“So far, with God’s mercy, he is negative (from COVID-19) based on his last swab test,” Go continued.
On Wednesday, Go posted three photos showing the president seated across from him at a table covered with documents, even as #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the president?) trended anew on social media.
It followed Roque’s announcement on Tuesday that the president had cancelled his weekly address to the public scheduled for that day.
Duterte was last seen in public on March 29 when he welcomed a batch of COVID-19 vaccines procured from China.
Concerns grew after Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander Brig, Gen. Jesus Durante III confirmed that 126 PSG staff had tested positive for COVID-19.
However, he explained that some had already been cleared, with only 45 active cases.
Durante added that infected PSG personnel were “not directly or closely detailed with the president and are all asymptomatic without experiencing any adverse symptoms.”
“Rest assured that the president is safe and in good health,” he said, adding that the PSG’s protocols would continue to be enforced to ensure Duterte is “kept safe from all forms of threats at all times.”
Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar warned the public against spreading “fake news” about the president’s health, as he denied rumors that Duterte had suffered a mild stroke.
“We abhor and deplore the fake news that circulated on different social media platforms regarding President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s health after the recent postponement of this week’s Talk to the People,” Andanar said in a statement on Thursday. “As easy as it may be for some people to blame the government for any mishap, even the surge in COVID-19 cases, these attempts to wish … worst death to anyone, especially to the president of our country, are foul and tasteless, even if meant in jest.”
Andanar went on to remind the public to follow health protocols, including wearing face masks, and maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene “to ensure everyone’s safety from COVID-19.”
Despite assurances about Duterte’s health, a few lawmakers belonging to the progressive Makabayan bloc on Thursday demanded a concrete response from the government to the current health crisis and “not just photo ops showing a working president.”
“President Duterte and Sen. Bong Go are doing their gimmick again. How many times has it happened that when there is a major issue that needs the president’s intervention, they resort to gimmicks and photo ops?” ACT-Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said in a statement.
The country’s capital region Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces were placed under the strictest quarantine measures for a period of two weeks on March 29 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Western Pacific Region on Wednesday voiced concerns over the resurgence of infections in the Philippines, saying that the rising trend “is moving towards the red line.”
As of April 8, the Philippines’ health department reported 9,216 new COVID-19 cases in the country, taking the total case tally to 828,366.
Of that number, the department said 646,968 had recovered, while 167,279 were active cases, 98.8 percent of which were mild and asymptomatic. There were 60 new COVID-19-related deaths reported, bringing the total to 14,119.
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