MANILA, Philippines – Over a dozen foreign cruise ships are currently anchored in Manila Bay, among them, the M/V Ruby Princess which has been linked to coronavirus deaths in Australia and the United States.
The Ruby Princess arrived in Manila on Thursday morning, May 7, after a two-week journey from the port of Kembla in Australia. It is linked to hundreds of coronavirus infections and at least 19 deaths in Australia, and two more in the United States.
Australian police are investigating Ruby Princess operator Carnival Australia over the circumstances that led to nearly 2,700 cruise ship passengers – some showing flu-like symptoms – disembarking in mid-March and going home without being tested.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said in a post on its official Facebook page on Thursday that the Ruby Princess crew “like the rest of Filipino seafarers aboard 13 other cruise ships at the anchorage area…are scheduled to undergo RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 to be conducted by medical personnel of the Sub-Task Group for the Repatriation of OFW.”
The post was accompanied by a video of the PCG’s aerial surveillance to monitor the arrival of the M/V Ruby Princess at the Manila Bay Anchorage area on Thursday.
On Friday, May 8, the PCG Sub-Task Group for the Repatriation of OFWs conducted reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or swab tests on 441 Filipino crew members of the M/V Majestic Princess, after their completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine that started on April 25.
The group also conducted swab tests on the Filipino crew of the M/V Sapphire Princess, M/V Costa Serena, M/V Neoromantica, and M/V Explorer Dream on Friday.
Cruise ships started heading for the Philippines after the government allowed those with Filipino crew members to dock in its shores on April 16.
Under the rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), “foreign cruise ships carrying Filipino crew shall be allowed to dock in ports in Manila and to be used as a quarantine facility for said Filipino crew members.”
Foreign crew of the vessels are allowed to disembark in Manila “for the sole purpose of taking outbound flights to their final destination abroad,” the IATF-EID said earlier.
The crew members can finally get home after a mandatory 14-day quarantine, as required by Philippine health authorities.
As coronavirus cases began to spike in other parts of the world starting February, some cruise ships had to remain at sea as they looked for ports that would allow them to dock so their passengers could disembark and head home. Some carried passengers and crew who had flu symptoms. – Rappler.com