The World Health Organization, which has a representative office in the Philippines, is verifying reports that six Filipino crewmen of the Grand Princess, now anchored off California in the United States, have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier confirmed there were 518 Filipinos among the crew members of the Grand Princess.
The cruise ship has 3,533 people on board, of which, 2,422 are guests and 1,111 are crew members.
Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative in the Philippines, told a news conference Saturday said 46 people aboard the quarantined cruise ship, have been tested for COVID-19.
Of the 46 tested, 21 are crew members while two are passengers of the cruise ship. Of those tested, six are Filipinos.
He told a news conference at the Department of Health main headquarters in Manila: “I understand there are six Filipinos, these are unconfirmed reports, among the positive, six of them are Filipino crew members.”
Kuwait suspends flights
Meanwhile, Kuwait has suspended flights to and from seven countries, including the Philippines, as part of precautionary measures to contain Covid-19.
Under Circular 27 of Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, flights from Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt are temporarily suspended effective March 6 “until one week.”
“All arrivals in the State of Kuwait from any nationality who have a valid residency or previous entry visa, as well as those from other airports who were present in the countries mentioned above during the past two weeks, are prohibited,” the Kuwaiti Circular read.
At the same time, Kuwaiti citizens “coming from these countries are allowed to enter, provided that the necessary quarantine procedures are applied to them.”
Earlier, the Kuwaiti DGCA issued and later on suspended its Circular 25, which requires Kuwaiti-bound travelers from the Philippines and nine other countries to present medical certificates stating they are free of Covid-19.
In a related development, Filipinos planning a pilgrimage tour of the Holy Land have been advised to postpone their trips following the various travel restrictions imposed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority as Covid-19 continues to spread worldwide.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs advises all Filipinos planning to undertake pilgrimages to the Holy Land to postpone their trips until further notice,” the DFA said in an advisory dated March 6.
The Palestinian Authority has decided to temporarily ban the entry of all tourists into the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, DFA said.
The Israeli government also decided to restrict all travels to Bethlehem from Israel.
“Prospective travelers are therefore advised to coordinate with their tour operators to avoid any inconvenience,” the department said.
Some 15 Covid-19 cases in Israel and seven in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been confirmed, based on the latest data of the World Health Organization.
The UN-body reported 98,192 confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally, some 80,711 of which were recorded in China and 17,481 cases outside the state.
At the same time, the DOH said repatriates from Macau would undergo “home quarantine” should they arrive in Manila without manifesting Covid-19 symptoms.
“They will all undergo an assessment to see who among them has symptoms. For those with symptoms, we have an ambulance on standby where they will be brought to referral facilities. Those who do not have symptoms, they will be advised to do home quarantine,” DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press conference.
Once the repatriates are sent home, the DOH will continuously monitor them, she said.
“There will be a monitoring scheme with the help of the local government units and, of course, OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) to ensure that they would undergo quarantine,” she added.
At least 163 Filipinos from Macau arrived at 4:28 p.m. in Manila on Saturday.
The repatriates, a mix of undocumented workers and OWWA members, were stranded in Macau after all direct flights to the country were canceled due to travel restrictions.
A travel ban was imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases on China and its special administrative regions (SARs), Hong Kong and Macau, on Feb. 2 in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Recently, it partially lifted the restriction for new and returning overseas Filipino workers to the two Chinese SARs.
Based on the latest reports from the World Health Organization, there are 10 confirmed cases in Macau.
In the Philippines, the government has recorded six Covid-19 patients since the outbreak, with the 6th case being confirmed on Saturday.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the DOH will further enhance its diagnostic capability by expanding testing centers across the country after the Covid-19 alert system was raised to code red, sub-level 1.
The Manila International Airport Authority, meanwhile, said it had yet to receive any advisory on flight cancelations between the Philippines and Kuwait.
“None of our local carriers offer flights to/from Kuwait. There’s only one – Kuwait Airways,” MIAA Media Affairs Division head Jess Martinez said in a text message.
There was no immediate comment or reaction from the Civil Aeronautics Board.
On Saturday, the Department of Health raised code ‘red sub-level 1’ following its confirmation of the first case of local transmission of Covid-19 in the country.
This is to ensure that national and local governments and public and private health care providers can prepare for a possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.
The number of Covid-19 cases in the country has risen to six.
READ: Virus engulfs six continentsREAD: COVID-19 shutters schools: 300 million affectedREAD: WHO chides countries for not taking COVID seriously enough
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