April 20, 2021

Philippines’ Duterte cancels address due to COVID-19 among staff

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday cancelled his weekly national televised address due to an increase in active cases of COVID-19 among his staff, including some of his security detail, government officials said.

The Philippines is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with hospitals in the capital overwhelmed with record daily infections and authorities facing delays in delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Philippines has seen new daily cases surge in recent weeks, surpassing 15,000 on April 2, most of those in the capital Manila.

“The physical safety of the president remains our utmost concern,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement, adding they were also concerned for the wellbeing of staff.

Many people working for the president have tested positive for COVID-19, including the secretary of defence and some members of the presidential security group, Christopher Go, a sitting senator and Duterte’s closest aide, told reporters.

He did not specify how many were infected.

Before the pandemic, Duterte, 76, maintained a busy schedule, at times attending multiple public events and delivering several speeches each day, often late into the night.

His public activities have since been replaced by a weekly nighttime address.

Duterte has yet to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and says he is awaiting his doctor’s advice and regulatory approval of the vaccine of China’s Sinopharm, which some of his guards admitted to secretly using last year.

Go reassured the public that Duterte was in good health.

“Nothing to worry about,” Go said. “In fact, we are together and he continues working.”

With more than 819,000 COVID-19 cases and over 14,000 deaths, the Philippines has since last year been under tight and lengthy lockdowns that have decimated its economy and suffered one of Asia’s deepest contractions last year.

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