Duterte wants to personally welcome Filipinos from virus-hit China, official says

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

FILE PHOTO. President Rodrigo Duterte 'wants to be there' when the first batch of repatriated Filipinos come home from China on Saturday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, but this is something that needs to be discussed with the Presidential Security Group.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — Officials tasked to secure President Rodrigo Duterte are discussing whether or not they will allow him to personally welcome Filipinos coming home from China where the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to rise.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles in a press briefing on Wednesday said Duterte "wants to be there" when the first batch of repatriated Filipinos arrives at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga on Saturday.

"But there are still discussions... I'm sure that's a debate between the President, the PSG, and the PMS," Nograles said, referring to the Presidential Management Staff and the Presidential Security Group.

"He'd like to be there on Saturday but tingnan na muna natin sa PMS at sa PSG (we'll ask the PMS and the PSG first)," Nograles added.

The PMS under the Office of the President provides staff assistance to the President while the PSG, an elite unit of the Armed Forces is tasked to ensure the President's safety.

Nograles said "it's really a challenge" to protect the President, noting that Duterte has also refused to refrain from shaking people's hands during public engagements amid the threat of the new coronavirus called 2019-nCoV.

Health authorities have been advising people to exercise proper handwashing to help stop the spread of the 2019-nCoV. The new strain of coronavirus, believed to be a cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, was first detected during an outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

READ: Simple ways to protect yourself from coronavirus

The virus has since spread to more than 20 other countries, including the Philippines. It has killed 492 people worldwide, majority of which are in China, and infected more than 24,500 people.

In the Philippines, there are now three cases – all of them Chinese visitors – who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. One of them – a 44-year-old man, died due to acute respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Health authorities said there are so far no confirmed cases of local transmission. Sixty-three Filipinos are under watch for possible infection. Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said they either had close contact with infected patients or traveled from Hong Kong prior to the temporary ban imposed by Duterte on visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.