MANILA, Philippines, February 21 ------ About 500 Filipinos on the cruise ship Diamond Princess would be coming home on Sunday after the 14-day quarantine period in Japan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ended last Wednesday, the Department of Health (DOH) announced yesterday. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the repatriation of the Filipinos from the cruise ship that has been docked in Yokohama, Japan was moved two days earlier because the Philippine government received information that the cruise ship would be shut down.
“The Inter-Agency Task Force unanimously decided that the New Clark City Athletes’ Village will be temporarily used as quarantine facility for 14 days,” Duque said at a press briefing. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that there are 530 Filipino crew and seven Filipino passengers onboard the Diamond Princess. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. ordered on Wednesday the Philippine embassy in Tokyo to immediately repatriate all Filipino crew members and passengers of Diamond Princess as the Japanese government-imposed quarantine of the cruise ship ended.
Duque said both the DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) sent a joint letter to inform the local government of the IATF’s decision. “The President himself during the meeting with the local chief executives on Monday last week said that it will be the national government in the end that will make the decision with regard to the repatriation of our compatriots,” the health official added. All the Filipinos on board the cruise ship have expressed their desire for repatriation, but Duque said the actual number of repatriates could still change since some may, at the last minute, choose to stay behind.
Duque said two planes are bringing home the repatriates. The planes will land at different times at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga. “The DFA will determine the time of arrival as they are coordinating the repatriation of 500 Filipinos with their counterpart in Japan. The two planes will not be arriving at the same time, there will be some two to three hours difference,” he noted. Duque said the same protocols used during the repatriation of Filipinos from Wuhan, China will be adopted. All the Filipinos will undergo pre-embarkation testing and only those asymptomatic will be allowed to board the plane.
Upon arrival at the Clark International Airport, the repatriates will be screened by several teams of the Bureau of Quarantine. Those with symptoms will be immediately admitted at the hospital as patients under investigation (PUIs). He said several buses will be available to transport the asymptomatic repatriates from the airport to the quarantine facility at the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. Some 30 Filipino workers repatriated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19, have been quarantined at the Athletes’ Village since Feb. 9.
Just like the Filipinos from Wuhan, one room will be allotted per person at the quarantine facility for the those coming from the Diamond Princess. Transportation and accommodation, including the meals of the repatriates during the 14-day quarantine, will be shouldered by the Magsaysay manning agency that deployed the Filipino cruise ship crew. Medical teams from 16 DOH-accredited hospitals would be manning the facility. The same medical facilities would also serve as referral hospital if the need arises.