The Diamond Princess cruise ship (back) in quarantine due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, is seen at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on February 20, 2020. Two former passengers of the coronavirus-wracked Diamond Princess have died, local media reported, as fears mount about those who have left the ship after testing negative for the virus.
AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi
Filipinos on quarantined ship to come home on February 23  — DOH
Franco Luna ( - February 20, 2020 - 5:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health at a press briefing on Thursday said that some 500 Filipinos previously aboard the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship in Japan quarantined due to confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, would be repatriated on February 23, Sunday. 

The upcoming repatriation effort, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said  would mirror the initial repatriation plan for Filipinos coming from Wuhan City in China, but with some adjustments due to the bigger number.

According to Duque, the compatriots will be brought to Haribon Hangar of Clark Air Base in two planes arriving some two or three hours apart, boarded onto buses after immigration processes and quarantine procedures, and accommodated at the New Clark City Athletes Village.

"There will be more transport services. You will have two aircrafts, more transportation to bring the repatriates to the facility. There will just be a multiplier effect," Duque said. 

Those coming home have not exhibited symptoms of the new virus although Duque expressed uncertainty as to their exact number.

"Let's just have an indicative number of 500, more or less," he said.  

Asked if those undergoing repatriation would be doing so voluntarily, the Health secretary replied, "That is the sense that I got."

'Repatriates quarantined in the same area'

The department also disclosed that the new repatriates would be staying on the same floor as those already at the Athletes Village.

Of those under quarantine at New Clark City, Duque assured, "They are all well. 'Yung mga nagpakita ng symptoms, they are all negative for COVID-19."

The Filipino crew member aboard the Diamond Princess who tested negative for COVID-19 will also be quarantined when he returns to the country, Duque said.

Duque also disclosed that the number of Filipinos who remained on board who tested positive had already reached 44, a number he said was still subject to validation. 

"I don't have the very granular details, so we will just have to wait," he said.  

Amid earlier concerns that the first batch of repatriated overseas Filipino workers could contribute to the spread of the virus, the DOH assured the public that none of those quarantined showed any symptoms. 

READ: How the OFWs repatriated from Wuhan, China were screened and quarantined

Medical teams

The Health department also disclosed they would bring medical personnel from various hospitals in Luzon to attend to the Filipinos heading home. There will be 16 hospitals. 

Also present at the New Clark City will be teams of 10 comprising two doctors, four nurses, two nursing attendants and two utility workers. 

Asked if these 10-member teams would be enough to fulfill the needs of the repatriates, Duque said, "I'm sure that will be the subject of the TWG meeting this afternoon."

  • Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital
  • Bataan General Hospital and Medical Center
  • Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center
  • Talavera General Hospital 
  • Mariveles General Hospital 
  • Baguio General Hospital Medical Center
  • East Avenue Medical Center 
  • Ilocos Training Regional Medical 
  • Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center
  • Region 1 Medical Center 
  • Tondo Medical Center 
  • Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital 
  • Rizal Medical Center
  • Southern Isabela General Hospital 
  • Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital & Medical Center 
  • Quirino Memorial Medical Center
  • Valenzuela Medical Center

"We have to rotate our medical personnel [providing] health services," Duque said. 

As for Filipinos who recover will also be repatriated, Duque said it would be under the jurisdiction of the inter-agency task force.

"But in principle, if they want to be repatriated, we will facilitate it," he assured. 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 8, 2020 - 4:08pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

April 8, 2020 - 4:08pm

The Department of Health reports 106 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally to 3,870.

There are 23 new recoveries and five new fatalities, the DOH adds.

April 8, 2020 - 3:32pm

Voicing joy and excitement from behind face masks, tens of thousands of people fled Wuhan on Wednesday after a 76-day travel ban was lifted on the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged.

Previously quiet train and bus stations bustled as an exodus began from the city of 11 million, with some passengers wearing hazmat suits.

Hao Mei, a single parent from the nearby city of Enshi, said her two children had been home alone since she got stuck in Wuhan, where she works in a school kitchen.

"You have no idea! I was already up around 4 am. I felt so good. My kids are so excited. Mum is finally coming home," the 39-year-old told AFP as she waited to board a train.

"At the start of the lockdown, I cried every night. I was really miserable, because my little girl is still young, she's only 10."

Up to 55,000 people are expected to leave Wuhan on Wednesday just by train, according to government estimates. -- AFP

April 8, 2020 - 12:14pm

The National Telecommunications Commission and United Nations Children’s Fund join hands with the telecommunications to ensure parents and children’s security both online and offline amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Upon UNICEF’s request, the NTC extends its support in spreading information to alleviate the situation. The telecommunications sector is sending out text blasts encouraging subscribers to visit and for information and tips on how to support parents and children in managing the impact of COVID-19. 

April 8, 2020 - 8:02am

US President Donald Trump threatens to put a "hold" on funds to the World Health Organization, accusing it of bias toward China and performing badly in the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump tells he was "going to put a very powerful hold on" the WHO, the UN body whose biggest funding source is the United States. He gave no details about how much money would be withheld or when. — AFP

April 8, 2020 - 8:01am

The worldwide number of fatalities from the novel coronavirus rises 80,142, according to a tally compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT from official sources.

More than 1,397,180 declared cases have been registered in 192 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 257,100 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP offices from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

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