Philippine President Isolates After COVID Exposure

Jojo Riñoza and Luis Liwanag
Philippine President Isolates After COVID Exposure Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte receives his first COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinopharm, May 3, 2021.
Handout photo from Presidential Communications Operations Office

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose health has been a focus of concern, is in isolation after he was exposed to a staff member infected by the coronavirus, his spokesman said Thursday. 

The 76-year-old president, who is due to leave office after a general election in May, has been cavalier about COVID-19 and previously advised the public to disinfect face masks with gasoline. A former spokesman tried to play down that comment as a joke, but Duterte has insisted he was being serious. 

“The palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was recently exposed to household staff who tested positive for COVID-19,” his spokesman, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, said in a statement. 

While Duterte’s initial coronavirus tests were negative, “he is currently observing mandatory quarantine protocols.” 

Duterte, who received two doses and a booster of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, continues to work while in quarantine, Nograles said, adding the president is monitoring “the implementation of his directives, particularly with regard to the government’s COVID-19 responses.” 

Concerns about Duterte’s health have trailed him since he took office in mid-2016.

Last July, Duterte appeared to lose his balance when he appeared before a joint session of Congress to deliver his final State of the Nation address. His aides later said the president had lost his balance on a slippery carpet.

“There’s no problem with the president’s health. He merely slipped,” then-presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at the time.

In 2019, Duterte disclosed he has a chronic autoimmune disease that leads to skeletal muscle weakness.

The president underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy in 2018 and disclosed that he had Barret’s esophagus, a condition associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease in some patients.

Duterte also suffers from Buerger’s disease which leads to constricted and inflamed blood vessels in his arms and legs.

On Thursday, the Philippine Department of Health recorded 8,702 new COVID-19 infections and 71 deaths, pushing the totals to more than 3.58 million infections and more than 54,000 deaths since the pandemic began.


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