Philippine president tests negative for new coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has tested negative for the new coronavirus and will continue to take precautions to avoid infection, an official said Friday.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go, a close political ally of Duterte, and the president were tested for the virus Thursday after they met Cabinet officials who had recently been exposed to infected people. Go said the tests showed he also was not infected.

“We are fit and healthy to perform our duties,” said Go, who won a Senate seat in midterm elections last year after serving as Duterte’s close aide for years.

The 74-year-old Duterte did not show any symptoms of the COVID-19 disease but still took the test on the advice of health officials to be sure he is healthy and can continue to engage with the public, Go said.

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Most Cabinet officials who were exposed to infected people have begun self-quarantine.

Philippine health officials reported 12 new infections Friday, bringing the country’s confirmed total to 64. Five of the infected patients, a Chinese and four Filipinos, have died.

While the number of infections remains relatively low, Duterte announced drastic steps on Thursday to prevent the virus from spreading, especially in metropolitan Manila, where many of the cases have been reported.

Duterte suspended domestic travel to and from the crowded Manila metropolis for a month starting Sunday and authorized sweeping quarantines in the region, among other steps.

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