All Filipinos repatriated from the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) -stricken cruise ship in Japan has not shown any symptom of the disease so far, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.
According to the DOH, the 441 Filipino crew members and four passengers of the Diamond Princess, who arrived in the Philippines before dawn Wednesday, would be quarantined for 14 days at a facility at the New Clark City in Tarlac that was previously used to house athletes in last year’s Southeast Asian Games.
“Pagdating nila, lahat sila ay maayos except for one na medyo nahilo raw po pero after a while ay okay na siya… Wala namang nagkaroon ng sintomas (When they arrived, they were all well except for one who got dizzy and after a while became okay. No one developed symptoms.),” Health Assistant Secretary Rosette Vergeire said.
The ship Diamond Princess was quarantined on February 5 after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus.
Several crew members were not isolated because they were needed to keep the vessel running.
“Baka iba-ibang araw sila na-expose o nakasalamuha sa mga positibong kaso so naisip po natin na baka pinakamagaling po ang mag-ulit tayo ng another 14-day quarantine para lang tayo makasigurado (They could have been exposed or could have interacted with coronavirus-positive cases so we thought it best if we repeat the 14-day quarantine so we could be sure.),” said Vergeire.
The virus has killed more than 2,600 people and infected over 77,000 others in China. In the rest of the world, there have been more than 40 deaths and 2,700 cases.
The Philippines so far confirmed 3 “imported” cases of the disease from Wuhan, including one death and two who were discharged, Vergeire said.
Authorities are monitoring 98 other suspected coronavirus patients across the country while 506 were discharged after testing negative for the pathogen, she added.
Some 80 Filipinos from the cruise ship had tested positive for the virus. Of this number, 70 were still admitted in hospitals in Tokyo while 10 were discharged and preparing to go back to the Philippines, said the official.
The repatriated Filipinos from cruise ship have their own rooms at the Athletes’ Village, which was also used to quarantine 32 from Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus was first detected. The first batch of repatriates were cleared to go home to their families last Saturday.
The DOH earlier promised Tarlac officials that the repatriates from Wuhan would be the “first and last” group to be quarantined at the facility that is just 500 meters away from the nearest village, said Capas Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan.
“Kung may darating pa, ngayon pa lang po i-ready na natin ang permanent quarantine area sa Fort Magsaysay [sa Nueva Ecija],” he said.
“Mahaba-haba na po ang stress ng mga taga-Capas. Siguro naman po enough na po iyong first and second na kami po’y nakisama sa bansang Pilipinas bilang pagmamahal sa mga kapwa Pilipino (If there will be more repatriates, we hope that we could prepare the permanent quarantine area at Fort Magsaysay [in Nueva Ecija]. The stress of Capas residents have lasted long. Perhaps, it’s already enough that for the first and second batch of repatriates, we cooperated with the country as an act of love for fellow Filipinos.),” he said.
The health department is preparing Fort Magsaysay and tasked officials in Visayas and Mindanao to look for other potential quarantine sites, said Vergeire.
An inter-agency task force will also meet about a potential travel restriction on Japan and South Korea, which have the biggest cluster of infections outside China./Stacy Ang