MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said on Saturday, March 28, that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will repatriate over 4,000 Filipino crew of cruise ships “in the next 3 weeks.”
Locsin said on Twitter that 530 of them – crew of the Costa Favolosa and Costa Magica – will arrive in the country on Sunday, March 29, but “there are no hotels or motels to book them in.”
Italian company Costa Cruises, which operates the two cruise ships, earlier canceled all cruise operations until April 3 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Costa Favolosa and Costa Magica were anchored near the port of Miami, Florida, on Thursday, March 27, because of some sick crew who showed flu-like symptoms.
4,000+ repatriated Filipino crew in the next 3 weeks. 530 from Costa Fabulosa & Costa Magica arrive tomorrow and there are no hotels or motels to book them in. While DOT has a list of accommodations the OWWA of DOLE must approve the items in the list; however OWWA says…— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) March 28, 2020
Locsin said the Department of Tourism (DOT) already has “a list of accommodations” but it should be ultimately vetted by the Department of Health (DOH), according to protocol.
He said that under the DOH protocol, none of the incoming repatriates would be tested. In previous cases, repatriates were placed on 14-day quarantine in a government-designated facility where they were checked daily for symptpms.
“The DOH says that the rooms must qualify as individual isolation wards with room service so there is no mingling just in case some are COVID. It was suggested that DOH test the incoming crews but an undersecretary of DOH said NO. No? Yes, no. So no testing of incoming Filipino crews,” he said.
“And yet they are not to be given accommodations on the off chance they are COVID. So where do they go? The streets? Yes,” Locsin quipped.
He said that on the part of the DFA, it was ready to help “returning poor students” with its Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund.
In late February, 445 Filipino crew were repatriated from the novel coronavirus-hit cruise ship M/V Diamond Princess in Japan. They were brought to the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac – the Philippines’ national quarantine facility for the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Diamond Princess crew are expected to leave the quarantine facility and head to their respective homes on Sunday, March 29, but they appealed to the government to have all of them tested for the coronavirus first so they would not pose any risk to their families and communities.
The Philippine government continues to repatriate overseas Filipinos who want to come home because of coronavirus concerns in their host countries. The number of Filipinos abroad who contracted the disease rose to 245 as of Friday, March 27.
The Philippines recorded at least 803 cases as of Friday, including 54 deaths and 31 recoveries.
Worldwide, over 24,000 people died due to the disease while more than 537,000 people were infected across 175 countries. – Rappler.com