Lawmakers, Executive officials on quarantine as precaution vs virus

SEN. Panfilo Lacson confirmed Thursday at least three senators, along with their Senate staff, are “going on self-quarantine” as a Covid-19 precaution as several government officials from the Executive took the same tack after unknowingly interacting with persons who later turned out to be infected with the virus.

“Better safe than sorry for others,” Lacson said, as Sens. Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay announced their move to go into self-imposed quarantine. Lacson followed their lead, as he had interacted with Gatchalian.

He added other senators also agreed to disinfect the entire multistory Senate premises on learning that a recent Senate visitor he did not identify was found to be “positive for Covid-19.”

“There is every reason to be concerned as far as the Senate is concerned, since an invited resource person who has been tested positive for Covid-19 had not only entered the Senate premises, but even interacted with at least two senators and their staff,” Lacson said in a statement Thursday.

He recalled sharing the elevator with Gatchalian Wednesday afternoon “on our way to the session hall,” adding that “I am taking precautions by doing self-quarantine while waiting for the result of his test. If he tests positive, I will have to undergo the test myself.”

At the same time, Lacson confirmed that the senators agreed to “disinfect the Senate starting today.”

“I would encourage my fellow senators who may have interacted with our two colleagues, Senators [Nancy] Binay and Gatchalian, to follow their lead and do self-quarantine for two weeks, as well, not only for our sake but for others,” added Lacson.

In the Executive branch, several members of the Cabinet’s economic development cluster went on self-quarantine on learning they had interacted with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

They were led by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, subsequently followed by Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Bangko Sentral Governor Benjamin Diokno, Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar.

Among local governments, Mayors Isko Moreno of Manila, Sara Duterte of Davao and Toby Tiangco of Navotas went on quarantine.

‘Restricted access’

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday clarified the Senate is not on lockdown but is enforcing restricted access to certain areas of its building.

“I have issued a directive to the Senate Sergeant at Arms to put the Senate “under Restricted Access,” not a lockdown as the term lockdown has been misinterpreted and abused. Officials and their staff who have work to do and complete are required to report for work,” Sotto said.

The move came after senators were informed that a resource person who attended a recent Senate committee hearing had tested positive of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay, who had direct contact with the patient, and their office staff are now on self-quatantine.

Sotto said the entire Senate premises will be cleaned and disinfected following these developments.

Offices or areas scheduled for cleaning and disinfection will be cordoned off and will not be accessible to any Senate employee, except for the cleaners who have been required to wear protective clothing.

“The Senate has to continue to function. The Filipino people need us today and we cannot let the threat and scare of an infection to distract us from work. However, I have given strict instructions that all employees should exercise extreme preventive practices as they go about their daily tasks. It is of utmost importance that everyone observe proper hygiene and follow protocols as a precaution against contamination,” Sotto said.

The Senate chief said any employee who feels any of the symptoms of Covid-19, or those who have recently travelled to countries with high contamination rates, or those who had exposure to local patients should voluntarily go on self-quarantine but continue to work from home.

House ‘virus-free’

Though several lawmakers have started self-quarantine, House Secretary General Atty. Jose Luis G. Montales on Thursday said the House of Representatives remains Covid-19 free.

“There are no confirmed cases. Neither are there Persons Under Investigation [PUI], nor Persons Under Monitoring [PUM]. The health and safety of everyone in HRep continues to be our priority,” he said. Montales said the chamber’s premises shall undergo thorough cleaning and disinfection on Friday until Sunday.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, meanwhile, started his self-quarantine on Thursday as a precaution.

“I was at the Senate with Mayor Inday Sara [Duterte-Carpio] yesterday [Wednesday] and I interacted as well with Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. Although he looks very healthy and asymptomatic, the most responsible thing to do is to subject myself to home quarantine and make sure that I won’t be spreading the virus in case I got it,” he said.

“But I want to assure my constituents that I will continue to work and serve them through electronic communication, such as phone, e-mails, teleconference and videoconferencing,” he said.

Ungab and Mayor Duterte-Carpio attended the plenary session of the Commission on Appointments at the Senate. The CA confirmed them as Army reservists with the rank of colonel.

Ungrab said the President’s daughter has started her home quarantine last Wednesday. She said he had lunch apparently on Wednesday with Gatchalian, who took the quarantine precaution after a resource person who attended his committee on basic education hearing last March 5 tested positive for Covid-19.

Besides Ungab, some lawmakers are also considering safety measures as they interacted with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who was reportedly exposed to a Covid-19 patient. Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz, Butch Fernandez


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