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Marcos catches COVID-19 for 3rd time


Helen Flores – The Philippine Star

December 6, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos has caught COVID-19 for the third time, but remains healthy enough to carry out his duties, Malacañang said yesterday.

As advised by his doctors, Marcos is under a mandatory five-day period of isolation for COVID-19 patients, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a post on its official Facebook page.

“The President remains fit to carry out his duties and will be continuing his scheduled meetings via teleconference. Updates on his health will be provided as available,” the PCO said.

The Senate, meanwhile, is again allowing a hybrid public hearing after Sen. Cynthia Villar tested positive for COVID-19 while other senators fell ill.

Marcos, through the PCO, has urged the public to remain vigilant and continue observing health protocols during the Christmas season.

“During this holiday season, President Marcos encourages the public to take precautions to safeguard their health, such as vaccinating and voluntary mask-wearing when entering crowded places,” the PCO said.

Marcos, 66, was last seen in public on Saturday for the Family Day celebration of the Office of the President in Malacañang.

The President cancelled his activities yesterday, including visits to Mindanao to attend to the victims of the bombing at the Mindanao State University on Sunday and the magnitude 7.4 earthquake in Surigao del Sur late Saturday.

Marcos tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2022 and in March 2020. He received his second COVID-19 booster dose in August 2022.

The Philippines logged 1,340 new COVID-19 cases from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, the highest number of fresh infections in 19 weeks, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

But Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said at a Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing yesterday that he is not recommending yet the mandatory wearing of face masks, in response to a question from Sen. Nancy Binay.

“We recommend the optional wearing of masks for people of high risks, elderly and people in an enclosed place like here in this meeting room where there are too many people, especially if you are prone to illness,” Herbosa said.

In October 2022, Marcos issued Executive Order 7 lifting the mandatory wearing of face masks indoors, except in medical facilities and public transportation.

Mask-wearing, however, is still encouraged for the elderly, individuals with comorbidities, immunocompromised, pregnant women, unvaccinated individuals and symptomatic individuals, the EO stated.

Villar positive

In a message to reporters, Villar said she tested positive for COVID-19 four days ago but her antigen test yesterday turned out negative.

“I was positive last Thursday. (The test was held at) l p.m. I’m negative today as per antigen. I’m waiting for the RT-PCR result,” Villar said. She had her first COVID-19 infection in August 2022.

Also at the CA hearing, Sen. Bong Go cited the need for “response measures” in the face of rising global cases of influenza.

“Another issue is the rising cases of influenza, this walking pneumonia. There are reports of a surge in cases of respiratory illnesses in China. The Netherlands has also reported cases related to the bacteria that causes walking pneumonia,” Go said.

He said Filipinos should learn from their experience during the pandemic years.

“Cases of flu are increasing. We should learn from what happened during our COVID-19 pandemic lessons; you (Herbosa) became a big part of the COVID response. Of course, other DOH officials, thank you for your sacrifice during the pandemic, we don’t want to waste what we all worked for,” Go said.

While acknowledging the rising cases of flu, Herbosa said there is no outbreak yet. “It’s true that there are many flu cases not only in China but now in other countries in Europe and reported increased respiratory illness in children. But it’s not attributed to the new virus, previous microbes, mycoplasma pneumonia, the respiratory syncytial virus, influenza,” Herbosa said.

“In the Philippines, there is no outbreak yet according to our Epidemiology Bureau, although there are many cases because this is a season of respiratory illness,” he pointed out.

“And my advice is the same. What we learned during COVID, social distancing, wearing face masks to avoid getting infected, if a child is sick, don’t let them go to school,” the DOH secretary added.

“There are many parties, many Christmas celebrations. If you have a cough or a cold, don’t attend the party because you might infect other people at the party, let us watch our health, just reminders, especially during the Christmas celebration,” he said. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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