Zubiri tests positive for COVID-19 shortly before Duterte's 5th SONA

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2020 06:10 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2020 09:36 PM

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri handles the legislative agenda of the Senate during the opening of the 2nd Regular Session of the 18th Congress on July 27, 2020. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - COVID-19 survivor Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday again tested positive for the coronavirus disease shortly before he was scheduled to enter the Batasang Pambansa for President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Zubiri said 3 rapid tests detected anti-bodies in his body, and a swab test confirmed that he is again positive for COVID-19.

"According to doctors it is possible that the test detected remnants of the dead virus cells in my body as I am a COVID survivor," Zubiri told reporters in a text message.

"I decided to forgo any other appointments and head back to my isolation room for quarantine," he said.

"I feel absolutely fine, wala po akong nararamdaman at wala po akong mga sintomas (I am not feeling any symptoms), but it's better to be safe and to keep everyone safe from this virus," he said.

Before getting confirmation that he is infected again with the virus, Zubiri physically attended the opening of the 18th Congress' second regular session in the Senate where he interacted with 16 other senators.

He was later seen participating in the President's SONA via videoconferencing. 

The Senate majority leader said that he is waiting for the results of another swab test to double check if he is really infected with the virus.

"I will continue to work from isolation virtually until I get my consecutive negative results after quarantine. Thank you for everyone’s concerns," he said.

Zubiri first tested positive for COVID-19 in March, and eventually recuperated from the disease in April.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who was also set to physically attend Duterte's penultimate SONA, changed plans about an hour before the event.

Gatchalian said he tested negative for COVID-19, but cancelled his trip to the Batasang Pambansa since he had lunch together with Zubiri.

"Sabay kami nag-lunch (We had lunch together) before the results came out," Gatchalian told ABS-CBN News in a separate text message.

"I'm under self-quarantine... [kasi] may contact kami nung nag-lunch kami," he said.

(I'm under self-quarantine because we had contact when we had lunch.)

Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe and Joel Villanueva, who also dined with Zubiri for lunch, have subjected themselves to isolation.

"Quarantine muna (We'll be in quarantine first). [We] Will wait for new test of Sen. Migz," Angara told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said other senators were advised not to be troubled over Zubiri's positive COVID-19 test.

"Doctors said most of the senators have nothing to worry about because Migz was with us when we were all masked," Sotto said.

"Those who need to monitor and observe are those who interacted with him during lunch when they had no masks," he said.

Senators briefly removed their face masks after the opening session to take a group photo.

In the photo, standing next to Zubiri without masks were Sotto and Villanueva.

In May, Angara - another COVID-19 survivor - tested positive for the virus for the second time, but his doctors said that "the latest positive result is probably [due to] picking up remnants of the virus."