Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said hundreds of Filipinos who disembarked from a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-2019)-stricken cruise M/V Diamond Princess will be quarantined for another 14 days after they are repatriated to the Philippines.
“They need to be placed under a new quarantine. We do not know if the virus will return or if there is immunity,” Duque said.
“The question there is, once you are infected and you got well, could you still get the virus? We don’t know because this is a new virus,” he also said.
Duque said authorities will finalize Thursday plans for bringing home Filipinos from the cruise ship in Yokohama.
It was reported that 530 of the 3,700 people aboard the cruise ship are Filipinos, mostly crew members.
The cruise ship had 621 coronavirus cases, of which at least 41 are Filipinos.
Duque also said a Filipino in the United Arab Emirates is in “critical condition” due to the pathogen, while another Filipino in Hong Kong tested positive.
He further stated that some 32 other Filipinos rescued from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — were well and would be released from their quarantine in Tarlac province on Saturday.
The Philippines confirmed 3 “imported” cases of the virus, including 1 death so far, all Chinese nationals from Wuhan.
Authorities, Duque said, are monitoring some 135 people for possible infection and have discharged around 398 patients who tested negative.
As this developed, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said if needed, the government should charter planes to bring home Pinoys from quarantined ship.
“If we have to charter a plane, then let us do it, if only to send a powerful signal to Filipino seafarers that when in distress, the government will rush to their aid,” said Recto.
He said an SOS by a seaman should not be ignored. Government should always be ready to throw a lifeline.
Last year, Recto said overseas Filipinos sent home a total of P1.7 trillion, of which P1 in every P4 was sent by 378,000 sea-based OFWs. The country’s economy is kept buoyant by those who take on hard and dangerous work at sea.
“So if one of the seamen on that cruise ship in Japan is ill, then he should be viewed like a soldier wounded in action, for his ailment was certainly acquired in the line duty,” Recto said.
He said it is therefore our obligation, as beneficiaries of their sacrifices, to treat them with care and compassion, and to bring them home.
“After all, the government has time and again boasted that it has the money for repatriation, and the medical staff and facilities to guarantee their safe integration back to society.”/Stacy Ang