Second Filipino recovers in Japan; confirmed cases now 49
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Another Filipino who was on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, Japan, has recovered from the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), with an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) saying the number of confirmed cases of infected Filipinos on the ship has reached 49.

On Friday, Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary for public health Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is validating reports that 52 Filipinos who were on board the cruise ship have contracted the disease.

But on Twitter yesterday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Brigido Dulay said only 49 Filipinos have tested positive so far.

“Since the Diamond Princess cruise COVID-19 saga began, 49 Filipinos have tested positive for the coronavirus. All infected Filipinos were cared for in Japanese hospitals. Two of them were successfully treated and discharged,” he said.

There were only 45 confirmed cases involving Filipinos on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. expressed gratitude to Japan for its response to the outbreak on the cruise ship.

“They are so lucky to be in the care of Japanese health authorities,” he said on Twitter. “Thank you Japan. You didn’t just anticipate the needs but went out of your way with exceeding care.”

In a separate statement, the DFA said it will bring home over 400 Filipinos from the Diamond Princess “in the next few days.”

The repatriation was originally scheduled today, but the DOH said it was delayed after the IATF “unanimously resolved to tentatively schedule the repatriation… early next week” to allow Japanese health authorities to complete the laboratory testing of the 400-plus Filipino crew members aboard the ship “and comply with the established Japanese quarantine protocols.”

It added that the Japanese government has ensured that appropriate health services are being provided to those affected aboard the ship. 

There are more than 500 Filipino crew members and seven Filipino passengers on board the cruise ship when it was placed under quarantine due to COVID-19.

Last Friday, the DOH had estimated that some 460 to 480 Filipinos on the ship have expressed desire to come home as their 14-day quarantine period ended. 

Vergeire said in a TV interview that only those who tested negative for two consecutive times within 48 hours prior to disembarkation can join the repatriation.

However, it was found that Japanese authorities started testing the Filipinos last Friday and they were supposed to be finished yesterday.  But as of press time, the tests on half of the passengers are not yet complete. 

Vergeire added aside from this, there are no “ground handlers” of the air carrier at the airport in Japan that will be used to repatriate the Filipinos from Feb. 22 to 24. 

As a policy, those who will test positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to join the repatriation. They will instead be brought to a hospital in Japan for management. 

Upon arrival at the Clark airport in Pampanga, the repatriates will be brought directly to the Athletes’ Village at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac where they will undergo another 14-day quarantine.

Malacañang assured the public yesterday that the government is implementing all precautionary measures to make sure that the repatriation of the 400-plus Filipinos aboard the Diamond Princess will go smoothly despite a decision to delay the return.

“The Office of the President also assures the public that all precautionary measures and safety protocols are in place for the seamless repatriation of our countrymen from Japan,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Christina Mendez, Ric Sapnu

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