Palace cancels Pres. Duterte’s “Talk to the Nation,” other activities as PSG reports 45 active COVID cases

Pres. Duterte “safe, in good health”; 45 PSG men who tested positive mostly assigned in Palace gates, says PSG chief

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on March 29, 2021. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


(Eagle News) – Malacanang cancelled the scheduled “Talk to the Nation” of President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night, April 7, amid reports that at least 45 members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had tested positive for COVID-19.

“The Palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will not have a Talk to the People Address tonight, April 7, 2021, in light of the rising number of active COVID-19 cases,” said a statement from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“The physical safety of the President remains our utmost concern,” he said.

Roque explained that the “preparation for the Talk to the People Address entails a number of staff complement and we also take due consideration of their well-being.”

“Please be guided accordingly,” he added.

The commander of the PSG. Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante, meanwhile, assured the public that President Duterte remained “safe” and “in good health.”

-PSG chief: 45 PSG men with active COVID not close details of Pres. Duterte-

He said that the 45 active COVID-19 cases among the PSG were security personnel who are mostly manning the gates of the Malacanang compound and were  “not directly or closely detailed with the President.”

“At the least, our PSG personnel who got infected are not directly or closely detailed with the President and are all asymptomatic without experiencing any adverse symptom. Hence, rest assured that the President is safe and in good health,” Durante said in a press statement.

In an interview over the state-run channel PTV-4, the PSG chief said that while the number of PSG personnel who contracted COVID-19 reached 126, only 45 of these were active cases.

“As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in our country, the Presidential Security Group is not spared from the virus as our personnel continue to perform our mandate during presidential engagements and routine security operations,” Durante said.

-PSG: “We won’t take the risk”

He said that the PSG would not take risks and would not recommend activities that would endanger the President’s health such as meetings that would expose him to a number of people.

“We will not take the risk,” he said. “We will minimize all possible exposure that might jeopardize our President’s safety.”

The rise in COVID-19 cases among the PSG came about even if they had already been vaccinated against coronavirus using the Sinopharm vaccines from China. There had been reports earlier that the PSG men had been given the first dose of Sinopharm vaccines late last year. In February this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the compassionate use of 10,000 doses of Sinopharm upon the application of the PSG.

The last time that President Duterte had his “Talk to the Nation” was on March 29, the first day of the Enhanced COmmunity Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal — also known as the NCR Plus bubble. During that meeting, President Duterte also had conversations with his cabinet members including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who, on Tuesday, April 7, announced that his COVID-19 test results came out positive.

(File photo) President Rodrigo Dutete discusses matters with Presidential Spokesperson Herminio “Harry” Roque Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process and National Task Force against Coronavirus Disease-2019 (NTF COVID-19) chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III prior to the start of the meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on March 29, 2021. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The spike in COVID-19 cases, which was even higher than last year’s peak, was not isolated in the Philippines as this was also reported in various countries amid the presence of new highly infectious variants of the COVID-19 virus (the UK B.1.1.7 variant, the South African variant B.1.351, and the Brazil variant P.1). There were also reports that current COVID-19 vaccines could be less effective against these variants — particularly the South African B.1.351 variant and the Brazilian P.1 variant — than previously thought. Medical journals such as the Nature Medicine journal talked about these variants’ “immune evasion potential.”

The new wave of coronavirus cases had severely affected various countries  leading to the scramble to corner vaccine supplies, and the imposition of export curbs by the European Union and in India where most medicines, including vaccines are manufactured. Both EU and India said that they have to impose export controls of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in their territories to ensure that most of their population get vaccinated first. This severely affected the delivery and deployment of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in EU and in India.

(Eagle News Service)