The Senate implemented a lockdown starting March 12, Thursday, after a resource person who attended a recent hearing was found positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday said that they were forced to impose the lockdown because of the development.
“Well, napilitan kaming mag-lockdown because of this event […] Baka abutin ng mga over the weekend ‘yan,” Sotto said.
A resource person who attended the hearing on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture on March 5 was confirmed COVID-positive on Wednesday evening.
The lockdown also canceled the hearing on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and money laundering scheduled Thursday.
In a separate statement, Senator Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said that the postponement was decided after consulting with Sotto and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“In view of this, and out of abundance of caution, we have decided to postpone the committee hearing scheduled tomorrow, March 12 in order to ensure the safety of our Senate employees and the public,” Gordon said on Wednesday night.
“This is also give time to the Senate to disinfect the building and to conduct contact tracing,” Gordon said.
On Wednesday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to 49 after the Department of Health reported 16 new cases.
“With the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, we deem it proper to observe precautionary measures by refraining from holding a mass gathering,” Gordon said.
The senator, however, assured that the hearing will continue once the situation improves.
“We have faced many adversities before, as a nation. But our people have always overcome these. Our unity, as a people, has constantly strengthened us to weather whatever vicissitudes life throws against us,” Gordon said.
Meanwhile, Senators Win Gatchalian and Nancy Binay have said that they will undergo a 14-day self-quarantine after being exposed to the resource person.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
On Wednesday evening, a Filipino COVID-19 patient died in Manila.
Hours later, on Thursday morning, Sotto clarified that the Senate premises are under restricted access — not locked down — until further notice.
“I have issued a directive to the Senate Sergeant At Arms, the Senate is now restricted access not lockdown as the term lockdown has been misinterpreted and abused,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.
The said status will remain “till the disinfection is 100%,” he added.
Sotto said that committee hearings may be conducted at the Senate building once it is declared safe.
“But that will take a while,” he said./Stacy Ang