Philippines army chief tests positive for COVID-19

MANILA (AA): The Philippines’ army chief tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Friday, while the country’s death toll reached 54.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Felimon Santos tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine at home with his wife, local daily The Philippine Star reported.

The defense secretary said he will also be in self-quarantine from Friday after coming into contact with the army chief.

The coronavirus pandemic has also forced the Philippines and the U.S. to cancel their annual joint military exercise this year, a top commander said.

Nearly 10,000 troops from the two countries were expected to participate in the exercise.

Meanwhile, the country’s Health Ministry said 96 new COVID-19 cases have raised the total number to 803.

It said the death toll was now at 54 after nine deaths were reported in different areas, while 31 patients have recovered.

Three of the country’s senators have also tested positive for COVID-19, namely Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, and Senator Juan Edgardo Angara.

Lawmaker Eric Yap, a member of the parliament’s lower chamber, the House of Representatives, also announced he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

After Yap’s revelation, members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were ordered to undergo self-quarantine starting tomorrow, Philippines News Agency reported.

PSG chief Col. Jesus Durante said Yap had attended a March 21 meeting at the presidency, despite showing symptoms of the disease.

“PSG personnel are now prohibited from leaving the Malacanang [presidential] complex to prevent possible transmission of the disease,” he said.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 176 countries and territories, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The data shows more than 542,000 cases have been reported worldwide since last December, with the death toll above 24,000 and over 124,000 recoveries.