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Amid COVID-19 threat, Duterte jokes he wants hugs, not handshakes from women

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that he will continue to shake hands despite the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) threat, contrary to an earlier pronouncement by his security group that a “no-touch” policy to the president will be enforced.

“I want an embrace, why only a handshake? Kulang ‘yan… Kalokohan ‘yang protocol na 'yan. I will shake hands,” Duterte told reporters in Malacañang after convening local government officials and the inter-agency body handling the government response to COVID-19.

“Kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayon, oras na ito, pupunta na ako. Tapos na ako. Naging presidente na ako, pinakamataas na maaabot ng isang tao. Mga anak ko, okay na,” Duterte added.

Earlier in the day, the Presidential Security Group announced that they will enforce a “no-touch” policy on the president in a bid to protect him from the disease. 

However, Duterte insisted that it is part of his job to shake hands.

“Trabaho ko yan e… I will not decline invitations. I will shake hands with everybody,” he said, adding that he will be visiting Mindanao soon to pay his respects to fallen soldiers.

Before presiding Monday's meeting in Malacanang, Duterte was also seen going around to shake hands with Cabinet members and local officials, even giving an official a cheek kiss.

The president also announced that the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines rose to 24 after four more cases were confirmed just hours after the Department of Health said the COVID-19 cases in the country doubled overnight.

Duterte also proclaimed a class suspension from Tuesday, March 10, until Saturday, March 14, as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus. —LDF, GMA News