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4 more Pinoys aboard cruise ship test positive

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Four more Filipinos onboard the quarantined cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Monday, as health officials seemed confused about extending the travel ban to Taiwan.

READ: NCoV death toll in China hits 800

4 more Pinoys aboard cruise ship test positive

Meanwhile, the Department of Health said none of the 32 Filipinos repatriated from Wuhan, ground zero of the nCoV outbreak, showed any symptoms of the deadly disease while they were quarantined in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

The DFA said the four Filipinos were among the six newly confirmed cases of the virus on the cruise ship docked off Yokohama and were being treated in a Japanese hospital.

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“The DFA, through the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, confirms that four other Filipinos aboard Diamond Princess tested positive for the novel coronavirus yesterday, Feb. 9, 2020, bringing to five the number of positive cases,” it said in a statement.

The agency reported last week the first Filipino 2019-nCoV case inside the ship.

In a recent statement, Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Robespierre Bolivar said the Filipino was “responding positively” to treatment.

There are more than 500 Filipinos still onboard the vessel, which has been docked off the port of Yokohama since Feb. 4.

The Japanese Health Ministry said the ship would remain under the mandatory 14-day quarantine period until Feb. 19.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the 32 Filipinos who arrived Sunday from Wuhan, China, remain healthy and free of nCoV.

In a news briefing, Domingo said all of the repatriates were examined before they boarded the plane, during the flight, after they disembarked and before being sent to the Athletes’ Village in the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

Domingo said nobody went to the airport showing symptoms and nobody was barred from taking the plane.

The repatriates from Wuhan—14 females and 18 males—are considered as persons under monitoring and are currently being observed and isolated.

“Our on-site medical staff from Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital will be working 24/7 to conduct daily monitoring of the vital signs and status of the PUMs, and provide appropriate health services to those who are quarantined,” Domingo said.

In all, 49 people, including the flight crew and ground operator, are being monitored.

The DOH has declared code blue in all government hospitals, health offices, and other health facilities in the region for swift medical response.

Those who develop symptoms, such as fever, cough, and colds, and other respiratory symptoms, will be immediately brought to a designated hospital for isolation and proper clinical management.

As of noon Monday, there were 261 patients under investigation admitted in various hospitals. Some 48 of them have been discharged under strict monitoring.

Domingo said 109 of the patients under investigation tested negative and three tested positive for nCoV. There are 202 cases with test results pending from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

“We have an increasing number of cases being sent to the RITM over last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And the turnaround time for the RITM is 48 hours for the test results to come out,” he said.

“We are seeing a rapid increase in the transmission rate of the virus globally. “

Domingo said the department has strengthened its capacity in preparation for the possibility of local transmission.

He said all DOH hospitals are equipped to cater to the influx of patients and are following strict infection control protocols to contain the virus.

As of Feb. 9, the Epidemiology Bureau with the help of the police has identified all 441 contacts of the first and second nCoV cases in the Philippines, Domingo said.

About 224 out of 403 contacts have been traced for the third confirmed case.

Currently, 147 (66 percent) contacts have been interviewed and were placed under home quarantine, eight symptomatic contacts have been categorized as patients under investigation and were admitted for isolation and monitoring.

Domingo said all regions of the country now have patients under investigation.

He also said they were making sure that communities near the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City understand that they are not under any risk from the repatriated Filipinos.

He said the facility was “very, very far” from any of the communities in Capas, Tarlac.

“They witnessed how it happened from the time of disembarking and transport from the airport to the facility. No way to expose anybody to the virus,” Domingo said.

A second batch of Filipinos from Hubei province changed their minds and opted to stay in China with their Chinese husbands and families.

Domingo said Taiwan has been included in the travel ban, noting that only Filipinos and foreigners with permanent residence here will be allowed to enter the Philippines.

But Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to discuss a possible travel ban on Taiwan, which recorded its 18th case of the viral infection on Sunday.

“It’s not yet agreed or final. It will still be subjected to a discussion and agreement among the member agencies of the inter-agency task force,” Bayugo said in a Palace briefing.

Also on Monday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said 19 of his men who boarded vessels carrying passengers with a travel history in China, Hong Kong and Macau have been put under home quarantine as a preventive measure.

In a statement, Morente said that the 19 immigration officers boarded five different cruise ships that have passengers who visited China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the last 14 days, and arrived between January to February.

He added that the 19 officers did not exhibit any symptoms of the virus, and neither did the passengers that they inspected.

“They were assessed by competent personnel of the Bureau of Quarantine, who were part of the boarding teams that inspect arriving ships. We are doing this as a preventive measure, to ensure that our officers are protected from the virus,” Morente said.

4 more Pinoys aboard cruise ship test positive
DOCKED AND DELAYED. Passengers look out from their cabins on the Diamond Princess cruise ship (left), with 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on Monday (above). Around 60 more people on board the Diamond Princess have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country’s national broadcaster said,  raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. AFP

In related developments:

• Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said overseas Filipino workers affected by the ongoing travel ban in China, Hong Kong and Macau will receive P10,000 financial assistance from the government. He also said Filipinos repatriated from Hubei province in China will receive P20,000.

• Flag carrier Philippine Airlines on Monday announced it is extending up to March the cancellation of flights to and from China and its special administrative regions in light of the latest developments relative to the novel coronavirus. The cancellation covered the flights to and from Beijing, Hong Kong, Jinjiang, Xiamen, Macau, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

READ: Duterte okays P2.25 billion for workers’ masks, gear

READ: DFA suspends visa issuances to Chinese

READ: DOH to big hospitals: You can’t turn away suspected nCoV patients

READ: US, Japan nationals lead escape from Wuhan; PH readies planes

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