A year into the world’s longest lockdown, and after claiming the Philippine government’s response to COVID-19 was going well, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed today that he is positive for COVID-19.
“It came as a shock that after 35 tests, we came back positive,” Roque said during his Malacañang press briefing. The COVID test was administered on him yesterday, March 14. His last negative test was Wednesday, March 10.
He added that those who had come in close contact with him should quarantine themselves.
Roque has staunchly defended the government’s response to COVID 19 despite the rising number of cases and slow vaccine rollout, saying on March 11, “We have been managing COVID-19 very well.”
The Philippines has among the highest infections in Asia with 621, 498 cases and 12,829 deaths as of today. A spike in infections since the beginning of March has been attributed to the COVID variants from South Africa and the UK.
Roque is the second high-ranking government official to test positive in five days. Philippine National Police Chief Debold Sinas tested positive last week, March 11, despite being a “stickler” for following health protocols.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen Ildebrandi Usana in a text message over the weekend told reporters that Sinas “has been a constant follower of minimum health and safety protocols. Officials in the PNP know him so well as a stickler to this policy. But the virus is everywhere. Even royal family members get infected. We just have to pray he would recover quite soon so that he could go back to his indefatigable work again.”
It will be recalled that amid the strictest lockdown in May last year, Sinas held a birthday party for himself—a “mañanita,” the police chief later clarified—which violated all health protocols issued by the government, such as social distancing, wearing of facemasks, and alcohol ban.
Sinas and his men were not sanctioned for their community quarantine violations. Six months later, on Nov. 9, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as PNP Chief.