Not all PSG personnel vaccinated, chief says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 8) — Not all members of the Presidential Security Group were vaccinated against COVID-19, the group commander said on Thursday after more than a hundred PSG personnel contracted the coronavirus recently.

Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, PSG chief, told CNN Philippines the president's security “reached a peak” of 126 active cases over the past week. The alarming rise in infections not just among PSG personnel but in Metro Manila as well prompted the PSG to recommend the postponement of President Rodrigo Duterte's activities for the week, including his regular "Talk to the People" address, Durante said.

The capital region, where Malacañang is located, has been placed under enhanced community quarantine along with four nearby provinces due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the number of PSG personnel battling COVID-19 was down to 41 as of Thursday, Durante said.

He reiterated that most of those infected were assigned to man the Malacanang gates, and not one of them is among the President's close-in security.

Durante also said majority of the patients have not received their COVID-19 shots.

“Not all personnel have been immunized yet with any vaccine but some of the personnel were already immunized. But I could say that statistically, most of those who haven’t been immunized yet were the ones who were infected by the virus, mostly,” he told CNN Philippines' News Night. He did not say how many have been vaccinated.

Health experts have explained that vaccinees can still contract the coronavirus, but they are protected from severe disease or hospitalization. All infected PSG personnel are asymptomatic or not showing flu-like symptoms, Durante said.

In February, the Food and Drug Administration granted the PSG a compassionate special permit, allowing it to use 10,000 doses of Chinese firm Sinopharm’s coronavirus vaccine. When asked about this, Durante said the inoculation drive is still ongoing.

“Every day we have a program for our personnel here to be vaccinated and it’s being scheduled from time to time,” he said.

He said Duterte’s close-in security personnel were prioritized in the vaccination and that all of them are “safe and free from the virus,” including the President.

Some PSG personnel got COVID-19 vaccine shots as early as September 2020, and investigations are ongoing on how these unauthorized vaccines presumably were "smuggled" into the country.