Philippines: Senator Attends Child’s Birth, Bringing Coronavirus to Maternity Ward

Sen. Koko Pimentel delivered his remarks at the US-Philippines Society Breakfast Panel Presentation and Discussion held at The Peninsula Manila last Feb. 17, 2020. (Senate PRIB/Released)
Senate PRIB/Released

Philippine Senator Aquilino Pimentel brought his wife to Manila’s Makati Medical Center (MMC) on Tuesday night to give birth, while awaiting results for his own Chinese coronavirus test. The hospital said Pimentel possibly infected other patients and medical staff.

MMC medical director Dr. Saturnino Javier admonished Pimentel for visiting the hospital despite already experiencing symptoms for the Chinese coronavirus in a statement on Wednesday.

We denounce the irresponsible and reckless action of the senator. He added to the burden of a hospital trying to respond … [and] to cope with the daunting challenges of this … outbreak. His admonition for everyone to observe social distancing, enhanced community quarantine measures, washing of hands, and personal hygiene are nothing but empty rhetoric because he himself violated all of those.

Javier urged “duly-elected officials” to “follow what they preach,” in an interview with local Manila radio station DZMM on Wednesday.

The call for compliance comes amid a severe crackdown by the Philippine government on people violating quarantine mandates. President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon, where Manila is located, on lockdown last week.  Duterte has threatened criminal charges and jail time for citizens and local officials who defy the strict quarantine orders, intended to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus in the country.

Under the Department of Health’s guidelines, a Person Under Investigation (PUI) – i.e., a person suspected of having the Chinese coronavirus – must complete a 14-day self-quarantine to reduce chances of transmission. Pimentel said he started to experience flu-like symptoms as early as March 14 and decided to isolate himself in a different room from his wife at home. Just days earlier, on March 11, Pimentel’s colleague in a Senate hearing had tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus.

The lawmaker described his visit to MMC on Tuesday night in an interview with the Philippine cable channel ANC on Thursday. He said he arrived at MMC around 6 p.m. and later received a call from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which processed his test, at around 9 p.m.. Pimentel said he informed the doctor attending to his wife that he had tested positive, and left the hospital immediately after, denying rumors he had lingered on MMC premises despite his positive status. He insisted that during the several hours he was inside MMC he did not experience any symptoms and wore a face mask and gloves.

In his radio interview, MMC Director Javier said that the time Pimentel received his test result was “immaterial” since the senator was already experiencing Chinese coronavirus symptoms prior to the hospital visit. People suspected of having the Chinese coronavirus must complete a 14-day self-quarantine, per Department of Health guidelines.

Pimentel insisted that “nobody has imposed a quarantine on me, except that to cooperate with the enhanced community quarantine,” in his interview with ANC.

Calls for Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s arrest have been circulating online since news broke on Wednesday of his quarantine breach. The hashtags #KokoKulong (“Jail Koko”) and #KokoResign have been trending on social media ever since MMC denounced the legislator. One Twitter user wrote, “We want Senator Pimentel to be jailed and penalized for breaking quarantine rules! No one should be exempted from the law!”

At press time Thursday, the Philippines had 707 confirmed cases of Chinese coronavirus and 45 deaths.


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