MANILA – Repatriation of the almost 500 Filipinos aboard the coronavirus-hit M/V Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan was reset to “early next week” the Department of Health (DoH) announced on Saturday.
DoH’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) said the postponement was “unanimously resolved” to “allow Japanese health authorities to complete the laboratory testing of 400-plus Filipino crew members aboard the ship and comply with the established Japanese quarantine protocols.”
It was also learned from the DoH that the Japanese government has ensured that appropriate health services were being provided to the affected Filipinos aboard the ship.
“Our Tokyo Embassy is working closely with the Japanese health and foreign ministry to complete the quarantine protocols for the Philippine Government to repatriate Filipino crew members as soon as possible,” it said.
For her part, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that Filipinos who would be repatriated must first test negative twice from the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) before embarkation.
Another reason of postponement of the repatriation was that Japanese health personnel would have a weekend off from February 22-24.
“So there is no ground handler [doon] sa airport na pupuntahan ng ating mag repatriates (So there are no ground handler in the airport were the repatriates will go),” she said.
At a press conference on Friday, Vergeire claimed there were about 480 Filipinos aboard the ship and 52 tested positive for Covid-19.
The Diamond Princess is currently docked at a port in Japan. It has logged the biggest number of infected people outside China with 634 confirmed cases.
Of the 3,200 people aboard of the luxury ship were 558 Filipinos, mostly crew members.
Once repatriation pushes through, the 558 Filipinos will still be quarantined at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac using the same protocols for bringing home 30 Filipinos from Wuhan City in China before.
This means that they have to be isolated for 14 days upon arrival. (Ismael Amigo/sovereignph.com)