PH Center on lockdown after employee tests positive for coronavirus

by Ricky Rillera

NEW YORK – The Philippine Consulate General in New York (PCGNY) has issued an advisory confirming Thursday that “one individual working in the Philippine Center” has tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It said that the PCGNY and the Philippine Center will be closed to the public until further notice.

Other Philippine government offices housed at the Philippine Center are the Philippine Mission to the United Nations, headed by Kira Danganan-Azucena, charge d’affaires and deputy permanent representative of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations, the Office of the Tourism Representative, Tourism Director/Attache Francisco Lardizabal, and the Philipppine Trade and Investment Promotion Office represented by Nicanor Bautista, Jr.

Concerns were raised earlier this week after an unconfirmed report circulated that the individual may have had the dreaded virus since last week and was in contact with several people at the Center. The person was seen last at the UN Headquarters on Monday, March 10 and displayed symptoms the following day according to a tweet of Michelle Nichols. Reuters UN bureau chief.

Her tweet added that a diplomat from the Mission was tested positive on Thursday, March 6, citing a message from Acting Ambassador Kira Azucena who wrote: “We are assuming that all of us have been infected.”

On March 12, Azucena confirmed in a message to UN colleagues that a “colleague at the Philippine Mission tested positive today for COVID-19.” Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr. also tweeted saying “the infected is doing well; she’s young, spritely, smart and taking some doctor prescribed meds.”

On Sunday, March 8, PCGNY announced that it has canceled all public events and programs at the Center which affected previously scheduled events such as An Evening with Distinguished Filipino Women. However, although canceled, it also said that Tsismisan by FYLPRO and Census Leadership Forum by NaFFAA will be live-streamed. This meant that only a limited number of people would be allowed to attend the events.

Tsismisan: Using Our Voices for Good hosted by FYLPRO alumni Rachelle Peraz Ocampo at the Kalayaan Hall, Philippine Center on March 11, 2020. | Facebook

On March 11, besides the panelists and guests for the Tsismisan, some members of the media who covered the event were worried they could have been potentially exposed and infected as well. They wanted to take preventine measures but were frustrated to have heard nothing from the Consulate as the story broke.

After the media pressed on consular staff for a reply, Consul General Claro S. Cristobal issued a statement saying that the “employee is now being treated for symptoms. Following [the] standard operating procedure, Consulate General officers and staff will self-quarantine, for the protection of the community.” He added that the “Consulate will work closely with concerned authorities to facilitate the resumption of its operations.”

The Philippine Mission has also advised the UN medical director’s office of the development and the New York City’s health department.

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