Coronavirus-free Filipinos on Japan ship to return home February 25

Michelle Abad
Coronavirus-free Filipinos on Japan ship to return home February 25
Although over 400 Filipinos requested repatriation, the exact number of repatriates will be confirmed on Tuesday

MANILA, Philippines – Around 400 Filipinos on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan are set to come home on Tuesday, February 25, according to Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Vergeire confirmed the repatriation date on Monday, February 24, after DOH coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine embassy in Tokyo.

Although over 400 Filipinos requested repatriation, the exact number of repatriates will be known only on Tuesday. Vergeire said they would still be subject to a screening process that would include testing and assessment if they have signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 disease. 

Those who test positive or exhibit symptoms prior to disembarking will be left behind, along with the 59 novel coronavirus-positive crew members in Japan. 

The repatriates will depart on two carriers. While they are on board the aircraft, the DOH will conduct regular monitoring. Those who manifest signs of respiratory illness will be isolated in one area of the plane. The planes are set to arrive at the Clark International Airport, where another layer of screening will be conducted upon landing.

Those who manifest illness will be brought to hospitals, while asymptomatic passengers will be taken to New Clark City in Tarlac for a two-week quarantine period.

“During the 14-day quarantine procedure, 20 medical teams from DOH hospitals will manage the quarantine facility to provide appropriate health services. Patients will be checked twice a day and provided with food and basic provisions,” the DOH said.

A total of 538 Filipinos had been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess docked at the port of Yokohama, Japan, since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which infected a total of 763 people aboard the ship.

Left behind for now

The 59 crew members who are COVID19-positive will not be included in the repatriation on Tuesday. They are currently in hospitals in Japan. If they test negative twice within 48 hours and exhibit no more symptoms, then they will be cleared to go home.

The two Filipinos in Japan who previously tested positive but recovered from the coronavirus will not be included in Tuesday’s repatriation.

According to Vergeire, the Japanese government assured the Philippine government that the Filipinos who won’t be going home yet will be taken care of.

Less than 20 Filipino ship crew members will be left behind, as designated by their employers. 

As of Monday, the confirmed cases in the Philippines has been stable at 3 for the past weeks. One died and two recovered and have been discharged from the hospital. The DOH has probed 609 for possible novel coronavirus infection, but 480 have been released. There remains 126 patients in various health facilities nationwide. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.