Duterte to take Covid-19 test as quarantines sweep Philippines

Duterte doesn’t have symptoms of the virus but has opted to undergo the test. (AFP pic)

MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will test for the new coronavirus and his key economic officials are on quarantine as lockdowns to disinfect offices swept the nation’s capital. The peso and stocks fell.

The central bank, finance department, the Senate and the Asian Development Bank will be shut from Thursday for cleaning, they said in separate statements. The Health Department said on Wednesday that a second person died out of the 49 confirmed cases in the Philippines.

Open market and settlement operations at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as well as servicing of banks’ cash withdrawals will continue as usual, it said in a statement.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade separately said they will be going on a quarantine after meeting with an infected person.

Duterte doesn’t have symptoms of the virus but has opted to undergo the test, his spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement. An interagency taskforce on emerging infectious diseases will meet Thursday to discuss urgent measures amid the outbreak, he said.

At least two senators will also go on isolation after a guest at a March 5 hearing was confirmed to be one of the country’s Covid-19 cases. It couldn’t be readily verified whether Dominguez, Tugade and the senators were exposed to the same person.

The Philippines’ benchmark stock index dropped 5.3% to its lowest level since February 2014. The peso fell 0.7% to 50.880 per dollar as of 10.08am in Manila.

“The market is on a risk-off mode. It’s about time your currency weakens in line with the regional currencies,” said D’Angelo Co, a foreign-exchange dealer at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp in Manila, as the country’s confirmed cases jumped and key economic officials go on quarantine.