MANILA – The 500 Filipino crew members aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess are coming home on Sunday (23 February 2020) after the 14-day quarantine period in Japan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ended last Wednesday.
So said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday adding that repatriation of the seafarers from the COVID19-stricken cruise ship that remains docked in Yokohama, Japan was moved two days earlier.
“The Inter-Agency Task Force unanimously decided that the New Clark City Athletes’ Village will be temporarily used as quarantine facility for 14 days,” Duque said at a press briefing.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) there are about 530 Filipino crew and seven (7) Filipino passengers onboard the Diamond Princess.
DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has already ordered on Wednesday the Philippine embassy in Tokyo to commence repatriation process for all Filipino crew members and passengers of Diamond Princess as the Japanese government-imposed quarantine of the cruise ship ended.
The DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) already sent a joint letter to inform the local government in Tarlac of the IATF’s decision.
“The President himself during the meeting with the local chief executives on Monday last week said that it will be the national government in the end that will make the decision with regard to the repatriation of our compatriots,” Duque said.
Depending on the preference of the Filipinos on board the cruise ship, the actual number of repatriates could still change since some may opt to stay behind.
Two planes are to be utilized in bringing home the repatriates.
According to plans, the two planes will be landing on different time schedules at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
“The DFA will determine the time of arrival as they are coordinating the repatriation of 500 Filipinos with their counterpart in Japan. The two planes will not be arriving at the same time, there will be some two to three hours difference,” Duque told reporters.
Similar protocols used during the repatriation of 30 Filipinos from Wuhan, China will be adopted Duque said. They will all undergo pre-embarkation testing and only those asymptomatic will be allowed to board the plane.
It was learned further that upon their arrival at the Clark International Airport, the repatriates will be screened by several teams of the Bureau of Quarantine.
Repatriates with symptoms will be immediately admitted at the hospital as patients under investigation (PUIs).
Each will be assigned one room per person at the quarantine facility for the those coming from the Diamond Princess similar to the 30 from Wuhan.
Expenses for transportation, accommodation, and meals of the repatriates during the 14-day quarantine will be shouldered by the Magsaysay manning agency that deployed the Filipino cruise ship crew.
Meanwhile, medical teams from 16 DOH-accredited hospitals would be manning the facility.
On Friday, three more Filipinos on board Diamond Princess tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the number to 44 of COVID-stricken crew members. (iamigo/sovereignph.com)