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By Sofia Tomacruz in Manila

Several cabinet members of the Duterte government are placing themselves under quarantine in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19, while serving as the country’s top officials closest to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III last night became the first cabinet official to announce he would undergo self-quarantine after he shook the hand of a patient who tested positive for Covid-19.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade followed suit and announced he would also undergo self-quarantine after he was “exposed” to a patient confirmed to have the coronavirus last week.

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Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar also announced today, that he would be isolating himself, as he was with Dominguez and Tugade last week.

All officials were at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbour Link inspection ceremony on March 5.

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Aside from this, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed he would also place himself under quarantine. He said he may have had “possible exposure” to a patient confirmed to have the coronavirus but that he had no symptoms as of posting.

“I just want to be sure,” he said.

‘Extra precautionary measure’
Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones also announced she would self-quarantine as an “extra precautionary measure” after some education officials were “exposed” to a confirmed Covid-19 patient last February 28 and March 5.

All officials were showing no symptoms of the illness as of posting. Medialdea gave assurances they would continue to work and that the Palace was exploring telecommuting options.

Efforts of cabinet members to isolate themselves come as Duterte was scheduled to be tested for Covid-19 today.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo gave assurances 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 were more vulnerable to the coronavirus, particularly those aged over 60-years-old.

Duterte, 74, earlier claimed he suffered from a slew of medical conditions that include myasthenia gravis, Buerger’s disease, Barrett’s esophagus, and “spinal issues,” among others.

As of Thursday, the Philippines has so far recorded 49 confirmed coronavirus cases, two of whom have died with a spike in the past few days.

Sofia Tomacruz reports for the independent website Rappler.

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