Solidarity in the time of COVID-19 -- MS Supplement

No reason to smile

In a display of what may be misplaced optimism, a Filipino crew member of the Diamond Princess posted a video of her and her colleagues in the kitchen staff dancing to a pop song in the galley of the cruise liner, which has been quarantined for the deadly new coronavirus (COVID-19) off the coast of Japan since Feb. 3.

In a tweet, the crew member, Mae Fantillo, said, “We all know that we [are] facing a crisis here in Diamond Princess due to nCoV but hey we still managed to smile, laugh and dance. For our family and friends to know we [are] OK here and we will stand together as one until we finish the quarantine.”

With every passing day, however, there seems less reason to smile, laugh or dance.

On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that the number of Filipinos onboard the cruise ship who have tested positive for COVID-19 is now 27.

Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, the DFA said the number includes the 16 new cases that were confirmed on Saturday, Feb. 15.

All 27 Filipinos who tested positive for the virus are crew members of the cruise ship. About 530 Filipinos work on the Diamond Princess—and their fate remains uncertain.

In contrast, American evacuees left Japan on chartered aircraft that were flying them home Monday.

And amid growing criticism of Japan’s handling of the ship, governments scrambled to repatriate their citizens, with Canada, Australia, Italy, Israel and Hong Kong poised to follow Washington’s lead.

In the early hours of Monday morning, a convoy of buses driven by people in head-to-toe protective suits removed American passengers from the ship after a makeshift passport control.

One US passenger, a 52-year-old medical social worker, said the US government should have acted much sooner.

“I am happy and ready to go,” she said. “We need a proper quarantine. This was not it.”

Indeed, the notion that 3,700 passengers should be cooped up on the same ship for 14 days with carriers of COVID-19 seems, with the benefit of hindsight, a particularly ineffective way to limit the spread of the virus. In fact, outside China, the biggest cluster of infections is on the Diamond Princess, where coronavirus cases have climbed quickly to 355 despite passengers being confined to their cabins during a 14-day quarantine.

Sadly, until this week, the government response to the situation has been to passively report now and again on new infections among the Filipino crew. It was only this week that health and foreign affairs officials said they were planning to repatriate the Filipinos—something they should have been done the moment they realized how many of them were in peril. Surely, this is no reason to smile—much less laugh, or dance.

Topics: Diamond Princess , Mae Fantillo , Department of Foreign Affairs , COVID-19
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