445 Filipinos from virus-hit Japan cruise ship now back in PH

Mara Cepeda

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445 Filipinos from virus-hit Japan cruise ship now back in PH
(UPDATED) The repatriates will be quarantined at the New Clark City Athletes' Village for 14 days to check for possible novel coronavirus infection

FINALLY HOME. The Philippine Airlines plane caryying the first batch of Filipino repatriates from M/V Diamond Princess arrives in Clark Airbase on February 25, 2020. Photo from the Department of Foreign Affairs

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A total of 445 Filipinos who were repatriated from the novel coronavirus-hit Japanese cruise ship M/V Diamond Princess are now back in the Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ official Twitter account said the Philippine Airlines flight of the first batch of 309 repatriates – none of whom tested positive for the novel coronavirus so far – landed at the Haribon Hanger of Clark Air Base at 10:15 pm Tuesday, February 25.

The second batch of 136 repatriates arrived via another PAL flight at 12:12 am on Wednesday, February 26

From there, buses provided by the Department of Transportation took the repatriates to the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac – the Philippines’ national quarantine facility for the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Before disembarking the plane, the Filipinos were first assessed for possible symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. They will undergo another health assessment upon arrival at New Clark City.

The Department of Health (DOH) said only those who will show no signs of COVID-19 will be asked to stay at the Athletes’ Village for their 14-day quarantine period.

Should a repatriate show signs of the new disease, he or she will be immediately brought to a hospital and isolated from other patients for further observation.

As of Tuesday, a total of 80 Filipinos caught the novel coronavirus while aboard the Diamond Princess, which had been in quarantine since February 4 at the port of Yokohama in Japan following the spread of the virus among the ship’s crew and passengers. Ten of them have since recovered and been discharged.

None of these 80 positive cases, however, were included in the Philippine government’s repatriation program for now.

There were a total of 3,700 people onboard the ship, including 531 Filipino crew members and 7 Filipino passengers. 

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded 3 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, all of them Chinese. One died, while the other two recovered.

The DOH has also probed 610 patients in the Philippines for possible infection. Of this number, only 98 remain admitted to heath facilities nationwide, while 509 have been discharged. – with reports from JC Gotinga/Rappler.com 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.