Palace Communications chief Martin Andanar on Saturday announced that 20 employees of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in Malacañang had tested positive for Covid-19.

The office’s patient zero was found positive last July 21, prompting a week-long work suspension at the New Executive Building (NEB) in Malacañang complex.

The work suspension, which was supposed to be lifted on July 27, will be extended until further notice, Andanar said.

“As office disinfection will continue to be carried out at the [NEB], we are extending the physical work suspension until further notice in order to ensure our personnel’s safety against the virus,” he said in a press release.

In line with the suspension, all programs and briefings done at NEB will be undertaken remotely or virtually.

Of the 20 employees, 13 were deployed to the PCOO main office. 

Andanar said the PCOO had conducted contact tracing and would adhere to government health protocols.

“We are also fulfilling any assistance and support we can provide to our personnel and their families on the matter,” he added.

Andanar also said he had tested negative for Covid-19. Palace spokesman Harry Roque earlier announced that he was negative for the virus as well.

Malacañan Palace is set to be an alternative venue for President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Andanar said Radio Television-Malacañang would push through with its SONA coverage plan by deploying personnel not in contact with the infected employees.

Duterte’s SONA is scheduled to be delivered at Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City on Monday, July 27. John Ezekiel J. Hirro