As fears of a community spread of the COVID-19 in the Philippines are being addressed by the government at the moment, new infections on board the Japanese cruise ship, Diamond Princess, involving Filipinos have been confirmed by the Department of Health (DOH).
The latest figures from the DOH reveal 16 new cases who tested positive for the coronavirus disease, bringing the total count of Filipinos infected on board the ship to 27 as of February 15 (Saturday).
New COVID-19 Infections Confirmed on Cruise Ship, 27 Pinoys Now Infected
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Embassy is in close coordination with the relevant Philippine and Japanese government agencies, and representatives of the World Health Organization and Princess Cruises to ensure that the needs of the Filipino crew and passengers are met and to facilitate their return to the Philippines, as shared in a report by the Philippine Star.
Furthermore, it noted that all crew and passengers on board will be tested Monday so the laboratory results will be available once the vessel’s quarantine period ends.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III shared that the evacuation plans for the 531 crew members and 7 Filipino passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship have begun.
He added the Filipinos on board the vessel, which has been quarantined off the waters of Japan after at least 356 passengers aboard tested positive for the novel coronavirus, will decide if they want to alight.
In the meantime, the Philippine government is ironing out the details for the evacuation. Duque said they are still weighing where to quarantine the evacuated passengers.
Commenting on the development, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said all evacuated passengers have to undergo another quarantine in the Philippines. She said the Japan Embassy requested the repatriation of the Filipinos on the cruise ship once the quarantine period is over.
Last Sunday (Philippine time), the US started evacuating its citizens, while Hong Kong, Italy, and Canada have begun planning on how to get their citizens out of the coronavirus-hit ship.
Since February 3, thousands have been stuck inside their cabins under mandatory quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess, which is docked off Yokohama, Japan.
According to the Japanese Health Ministry all crew and passengers on board will be tested starting Monday (Feb 17), so that test results will be available by the time the ship’s quarantine period ends. Staggered disembarkations are due to begin on February 21.
The global death toll now stands at 1,770, with the vast majority of those deaths in mainland China. There have been more than 71,204 cases of the virus recorded worldwide.
It can be recalled that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) disease outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on Jan. 30.
Almost two weeks after being declared as a PHEIC, the COVID-19 has already infected 42,708 people in China and 393 people in 24 countries worldwide. There have been 1,017 deaths in China, mostly in Wuhan in Hubei province, while one death of a Chinese national outside China was reported in the Philippines. A second death due to COVID-19 was reported in Hong Kong.