No touching! Bodyguards tell Filipinos not to touch Duterte amid COVID-19 outbreak

From henceforth (at least for the time being) no one will be allowed to touch President Rodrigo Duterte in order to protect him from the potentially deadly coronavirus causing panic across the globe, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) — his official bodyguard detail — announced today.

PSG Commander Col. Jesus Durante told The Philippine Daily Inquirer in a text message that the “no-touch” policy was one of the measures that they’ve decided to implement after the Department of Health announced a recent string of new coronavirus cases.

“We tackled about strictly implementing preventive measures against the virus to ensure the safety of PRRD and the first family. Specifically, PSG will implement the no-touch policy to the President,” Durante said.

The security chief did not expound on whether or not the no-touching policy extends to other members of the first family.

PSG personnel, politicians, and even dignitaries who are expected to come near the president during meetings and events “will be thoroughly screened and tested” for any signs of COVID-19, Durante said. He added that “all established health protocols and preventive measures” are being followed by all PSG personnel in Malacañang Palace.

Research from the World Health Organization has said that individuals in their senior years with pre-existing illnesses are more susceptible to infection, and it’s no secret that the 74-year-old chief executive has some pre-existing illnesses of his own, including myasethenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness, and Buerger’s disease, a condition caused by blockages in the blood vessels.

Duterte has been quoted in the past as saying that life has been “taking a toll” on his health, which might explain why he hates the virus so much he’s threatened to “slap” the sh*t out of it.

As of today, the Philippines has 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases. In response, the Department of Health over the weekend raised its alert level to Code Red Sub-Level 1, which instructs staff to prepare for a possible increase in cases and to improve contact tracing of patients, among other measures.

That same alert led Duterte yesterday to sign Proclamation 922, which formally places the Philippines under a state of public health emergency. This allows government agencies to implement mandatory reporting, intensify the government response to the virus, and enforce mandatory quarantine and prevention measures to prevent COVID-19’s spread. It will also allow towns and cities to use emergency funds to deal with suspected and confirmed cases in their area.

“All citizens, residents, tourists, and establishment owners are urged to act within the bounds of the law and to comply with the lawful directives and advisories to be issued by appropriate government agencies to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of all,” the proclamation states.

Several schools in Metro Manila have already suspended classes today in light of the recent developments. The Department of Education has also suspended national and regional school athletic meets and events until further notice.

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