Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III on Thursday clarified the Senate is not on lockdown but is enforcing restricted access to certain areas of its building.

“I have issued a directive to the Senate Sergeant At Arms to put the Senate under Restricted Access, NOT a lockdown as the term lockdown has been misinterpreted and abused. Officials and their staff who have work to do and complete are required to report for work,” Sotto said.

The move came after senators were informed that a resouce person who attended a recent Senate committee hearing had tested positive of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay, who had direct contact with the patient, and their office staff are now on self-quatantine.

Sotto said the entire Senate premises will be cleaned and disinfected following these developments.

Offices or areas scheduled for cleaning and disinfection will be cordoned off and will not be accessible to any Senate employee, except for the cleaners who have been required to wear protective clothing.

“The Senate has to continue to function. The Filipino people need us today and we cannot let the threat and scare of an infection to distract us from work. However, I have given strict instructions that all employees should exercise extreme preventive practices as they go about their daily tasks. It is of utmost importance that everyone observe proper hygiene and follow protocols as a precaution against contamination,” Sotto said.

The Senate chief said any employee who feels any of the symptoms of COVID19, or those who have recently travelled to countries with high contamination rates, or those who had exposure to local patients should voluntarily go on self-quarantine but continue to work from home.

“Employees who feel they might be infected should volunteer to go on self-isolation. But they should inform their respective office heads about their decision for proper monitoring and coordination purposes. We should all lookout for the health and well-being of each other,” Sotto said.