As soon as he learned he contracted the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Presidential spokesman Harry Roque initiated his own tracing of close contacts.
Roque announced Monday that he would inform the people he had close contact in the past four days about his health condition and urge them to get tested and quarantined as a precaution.
“Isusulat ko lahat ng aking tatawagan. Ako na magko-contact tracing sa lahat ng mga naging contacts ko (I will jot down the names of people I will call. I will conduct contact tracing of all my close contacts),” he said during a virtual Palace press briefing Monday, March 15.
Roque usually works at the New Executive Building in Malacañang, Manila but traveled to two provinces in the past week.
“Ang mga nakasalamuha ko lang after the 10th and onwards, ‘yung mga nakasalamuha ko for these past four days ang isa-isa kong ililista at tatawagan para sabihin na mag-isolate sila at magpa-test kung may symptoms (The people I had contact with after the 10th and onwards, those I had close contact for these past four days, I will list down their names and call to say they should isolate themselves),” he said.
Under the Department of Health’s guidelines, close contact is a person who has been with a person with probable or confirmed COVID-19 within one meter for around 15 minutes two days prior to the onset of illness. Contact tracing is defined as identification, listing and follow-up of persons who may come into close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
At the start of his press briefing, Roque announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 and would soon go into isolation. He admitted that he was “completely surprised and shocked” by the test results, citing he had 35 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests since he returned as spokesman last year.
Roque took the test on March 14 and got the results March 15. The COVID-19 testing was part of a health protocol prior to attending a meeting with the President at the Palace.
So who are the possible close contacts of Roque? And where has the President’s spokesman been in the past few days?
On March 11, Roque was in Dumaguete City to join President Duterte and other Cabinet members for the inauguration of airport and port modernization projects. Roque however clarified that he was not yet a COVID-19 carrier during the Dumaguete visit.
Asked about his interaction with the President, Roque said he has not been in close contact with Duterte since he got his test results. Roque claimed that he got negative test results a day before the Dumaguete visit, adding he kept his distance from the President during the provincial trip.
On March 12, Roque went to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte to attend the launch of the vaccination drive. Taking a small aircraft, he traveled to the province alongside testing czar Vivencio Dizon. He also conducted a press conference with Dizon, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc and other officials during his visit.
Roque said his wife already took the coronavirus test and was waiting for the result.
“I am inclined to go to an isolation facility kasi ang misis ko po mayroon ding (since my wife has) comorbidity. Although, nagpapa-test na po siya ngayon kasi kasama naman kaming matulog (she took the test today since we sleep together) since my last test on the 10th of March. So, if she turns out also to be positive, eh mag-a-isolate na po siguro kaming magkasama (we will go into isolation together),” he said.
“Pero if she is negative today, I intend to go to an isolation facility also because we need to walk the talk na as much possible sa facility quarantine tayo,” he said.