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Philippine leader to undergo ‘precautionary’ virus test

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FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for the new coronavirus, an official said Thursday as two key government buildings were being disinfected over an exposure scare.

The Philippines has seen a jump this week in cases, including people who recently attended events with Senate lawmakers and government officials, potentially exposing them.

In response, the Senate building and Philippine central bank were undergoing cleaning, and several officials announced they would isolate themselves as a precaution.

Duterte, who at 74 is in a vulnerable age group for the virus, will be tested because he has been in regular contact with some of those officials.

“It is just prudent for us to take precautionary measures in compliance with the advice of our health officials,” said Duterte ally and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, adding he too was to be tested.

Hours after the news, trading in Manila’s stock market was halted for only the second time ever as it plunged 10 percent in the latest rout to hit global equities over the virus.

The Philippine Stock Exchange reopened 15 minutes later and ended 9.71 percent, or 616.99 points, lower at 5,736.27, its lowest level in more than six years.

The cutoff mechanism was adopted over a decade ago, and until Thursday had only been used on October 27, 2008, the exchange said on Twitter.

Duterte’s health has been a recurring source of speculation in the Philippines since in 2016 he became the oldest person elected as the country’s president.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez and central bank head Benjamin Diokno were two of the officials who were isolating themselves.

The Philippines has a relatively small number of confirmed cases compared to hotspots like China and Italy, but its tally has risen from 24 to 49 since Monday.

Health authorities also announced the nation’s second death, the first since an infected Chinese tourist died last month.


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