By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said those seeking an audience with President Duterte in the Palace are required to undergo a rapid test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to protect the Chief Executive from the dreaded disease.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said in a tweet that he was negative for COVID-19 after undergoing a rapid test as a precondition before entering Malacañang.
“It is used for those who will see the President as a precaution,” he said.
“Yun lang may audience sa President. Siyempre (It’s only for those who have an audience with him. Obviously) it’s to protect the President,” he added.
Despite this, Roque said that no one was allowed to approach President Duterte.
“No cabinet member can actually go next to the President nowadays. Mayroon (There is a) cordon, you cannot cross the velvet cordon,” he said.
In his Thursday virtual press briefing, Roque said they are doing everything they can to protect Duterte.
“Let me make this very clear: We make no apologies for the fact that we are protecting the life of the President,” he said.
“Gagamitin po natin ang lahat ng resources na kaya nating gamitin para protektahan ang Presidente dahil ang Presidente po hinalal ng taumbayan para mamuno sa kanila lalong-lalo na sa mga panahon ng krisis gaya ng ganito (We will use all the resources we can to protect the President because he was elected by the people to lead them especially in times of crisis like this one),” he added.
Roque said they were hoping that President Duterte has better protection with the use of rapid testing kits on his visitors.
“PSG will not allow anyone with symptoms to come into the Palace. So please understand that rapid testing is an additional safeguard,” he said.
Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Col. Jesus P. Durante III also confirmed the rapid test being conducted on Duterte’s visitors, in addition to existing medical assessments and stringent measures being enforced by PSG.
“PSG requires everyone who goes near PRRD to undergo regular screening procedures which include rapid testing to detect COVID-19 infection,” he said in a statement.
“The procedure exempts nobody and is even administered to high ranking government officials, PSG troopers, and close-in personnel who always accompany the President,” he added.
According to Durante, the rapid tests are administered by PSG Task Force COVID-19’s medical team and are different from the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits administered by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and its affiliates.
“Those found positive during the rapid tests will not be allowed to enter the facility. Much more if the concerned party manifests fever and other symptoms related to COVID-19,” he said.
“PSG does not claim that the results of the rapid tests are definite and absolute. It is still subject to confirmation through RT-PCR tests administered by RITM,” he added.