Repatriation plan may leave out 52 on cruise ship

At least 52 of the 558 Filipinos quarantined aboard M/V Diamond Princess might be left behind in Japan, but Health officials were unable to confirm if they all tested positive for the deadly new coronavirus (COVID-19).

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In a media briefing, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the number might still increase since others might develop the symptoms before boarding the chartered plane that would bring them home to the Philippines.

The repatriates from Japan will be placed under a 14-day quarantine at Athletes Village in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, just as the first batch of returnees—30 Filipinos from Wuhan, the center of the COVID-19 outbreak, completed their 14-day quarantine.

Filipinos left in Japan who test positive for COVID-19 will be transferred to hospitals or other facilities in Japan. They will be allowed to leave the country only after being discharged from those hospitals.

The 14-day quarantine of the more than 3,500 passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, Japan, ended on Wednesday.

Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have written to the local government of Capas to inform it of the “unanimous decision” of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IAFT-EID) to again use Athletes’ Village as a quarantine for the repatriates from the Diamond Princess.

Vergeire said the first batch of repatriates have not shown signs and symptoms of fever, cough or sore throat during their 14-day stay.

She said they will now be allowed to go back to their respective homes.

“We are glad that our repatriates are all well and safe from COVID-19. Our repatriation mission is not possible without the dedication and cooperation of the entire Interagency Task Force for Emerging

Infectious Diseases with all its member agencies. We are extremely grateful for the collective effort of the government,” she said.

The Health department is coordinating with other agencies in the task force, the World Health Organization, the Philippine Embassy in Japan, and the Magsaysay Maritime Corp. for the repatriation of around 460 to 480 Filipinos aboard the cruise ship who requested assistance to return to the Philippines.

The DOH tracker showed that 35 more patients under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 were discharged from hospitals. This brought to 455 the total number of patients discharged from hospitals.

The DOH website also showed there are still 139 patients being checked for COVID-19 in various hospitals.

Vergeire said there’s still no certainty that the COVID-19 outbreak would end despite a decrease in new cases.

Citing the ongoing international health crisis around COVID-19, all kinds of cruise ships visiting the province of Ilocos Norte are temporarily banned.

Gov. Matthew Joseph Manotoc, in an executive order, said: “all cruise ships shall be temporarily banned from docking at any ports in Ilocos Norte” as a proactive measure against COVID-19.

Any person arriving in the province from countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases must undergo mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days, the order states.

Also on Friday, the Civil Service Commission issued guidelines on leaves of absence as a result of possible exposure to COVID-19.

“Public sector officials and employees, whether permanent, temporary, provisional, substitute, coterminous, casual, contractual, or fixed term who feel sick with COVID-19 like symptoms or have been exposed to persons infected with the virus, are directed to immediately inform their supervisor, voluntarily seek immediate medical attention, or go on self-quarantine upon the advice and certification of a licensed physician,” the guidelines read.

“Moreover, government workers who have history of travel from China and its Special Administrative Regions (Macau and Hong Kong) as well as from other countries declared or identified by competent Philippine authorities… must ensure that they have submitted themselves to self-quarantine in their homes or any appropriate health facility for 14 calendar days upon arrival in the Philippines. They shall not report back to work unless the self-quarantine period has elapsed or they are issued with a clearance as being fit to go back to work by proper health authorities.”

Absences due to the quarantine will not be deducted from earned leave credits, the commission said. 

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Topics: Diamond Princess , Maria Rosario Vergeire , COVID-19 outbreak , Eduardo Año
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