MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The number of Filipino crew members aboard Japanese cruise ship M/V Diamond Princess who have been infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has risen to 59 as of Monday, February 24.
The latest figure was announced by both Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez during the weekly “Laging Handa” press briefing in Malacañang on Monday.
THe 59 infected cases include two crew members who have already recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by 2019-nCoV.
“To date, 59 out of the 538 overseas Filipinos from the cruise ship had been confirmed with COVID-19. Two of the confirmed cases have recovered since isolation and admission [in health facilities],” Vergeire said.
A total of 538 Filipinos – only 7 of whom are passengers while the rest are crew members – had been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess docked at the port of Yokohama, Japan, since the outbreak of 2019-nCov, which infected a total of 763 people aboard the ship.
Over 400 Filipinos from Diamond Princess have already requested to be repatriated to the Philippines. But Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said their trip back to the country, originally set on Sunday, February, 23, was postponed to sometime this week “out of an abundance of caution to further safeguard the health and safety of our kababayans (countrymen).”
The Cabinet officials did not specify the new flight schedules of the Filipinos to be repatriated from Japan, but the DOH said in a briefing later on Monday afternoon that the repatriation will happen on Tuesday, February 25. (READ: Virus ship crew’s families fear for kin as PH evacuation postponed)
None of the 52 positive cases will be allowed to go back to the Philippines, while those that will be allowed to enter the country will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine period at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, the designated national quarantine facility for possible COVID-19 cases.
Meñez also said several Filipino crew members will be asked by their employer, Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, to stay behind to keep the cruise ship running, but only “essential” staff will be asked to work.
“Actually even before na in-announce ’yong essential crew, I believe over 100 of our crew members nagsabi na rin sila na they were willing to stay behind should it be required by the employer. Pero as the situation developed, mukhang ang [Diamond Princess management] mismo ang nagsabi na titingnan namin kung sino lang ang crew member na essential,” Meñez said.
(Actually, even before they announced that an essential crew will be needed, I believe over 100 of our crew members already expressed they were willing to stay behind should it be required by the employer. But as the situation developed, it looks the Diamond Princess management itself said they would still have to check who only among the crew members would be considered essential for the operations.)
As of Monday, the Philippines has so far recorded 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19. One of them died, but the other two recovered and have since been discharged from the hospital.
The Department of Health has probed 609 patients in the Philippines for possible novel coronavirus infection. Of this number, 126 remain admitted in various heath facilities nationwide, while 480 have been released. – Rappler.com