Philippine Central Banker Quarantines as Duterte Tests for Virus

Cecilia Yap and Ditas Lopez

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for coronavirus and key economic officials -- including the central bank governor and finance minister -- are going into quarantine as infections rise. The peso and stocks fell.

The central bank, finance department, Senate and Asian Development Bank will close from Thursday for disinfecting, they said in separate statements. The Department of Health said Wednesday a second person had died, out of 52 confirmed cases of the virus in the Philippines.

Open-market and settlement operations at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, as well as servicing of banks’ cash withdrawals, will continue as usual, the central bank said in a statement. Bangko Sentral Governor Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said they’ll be going into quarantine after meeting with an infected person.

“No off-cycle meeting is contemplated,” Diokno said in a mobile-phone message. He plans to participate remotely at the bank’s March 19 rate-setting meeting, saying “we have the technology.”

Testing Duterte

Duterte doesn’t have symptoms of Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, but has opted to undergo the test, spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement. An interagency taskforce on emerging infectious diseases will meet Thursday to discuss urgent measures, he said.

At least two senators will also go into isolation after a guest at a March 5 hearing was confirmed to have the coronavirus. It couldn’t be readily verified whether Diokno, the cabinet secretaries and the senators were all exposed to the same person.

The Philippines’ benchmark stock index plunged 9.7%, its steepest decline since October 2008. The peso fell 0.6% to 50.85 per dollar.

“The market is in risk-off mode. It’s about time your currency weakens in line with the regional currencies,” said D’Angelo Co, a foreign-exchange dealer at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in Manila.

(Updates confirmed cases in 2nd paragraph, markets in 7th.)

--With assistance from Andreo Calonzo, Siegfrid Alegado, Claire Jiao and Clarissa Batino.

To contact the reporters on this story: Cecilia Yap in Manila at cyap19@bloomberg.net;Ditas Lopez in Manila at dlopez55@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cecilia Yap at cyap19@bloomberg.net, ;Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net, Clarissa Batino, Michael S. Arnold

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