BY Ashzel Hachero
and Gerard Naval
FOUR more Filipino crew members of the cruise ship MV Diamond Princess anchored off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“The four Filipinos, who are all crew members, are among the newly confirmed cases of the virus since the vessel docked off the port of Yokohama, Japan on February 4,” the DFA said, saying it got the information from the embassy in Tokyo.
“They are now being treated in hospitals in Japan,” it added. Reuters reported that only three Filipinos in the cruise ship were among the latest to test positive.
In all, five Filipino crew members of the ship carrying 3,700 have tested positive for the virus that has killed 908 people in mainland China and infected more than 40,000.
The DFA said the embassy is in close touch with Japanese health authorities as well as Filipinos on board the ship to provide them the necessary assistance, including food, medicine, masks and other supplies.
The Japanese Ministry of Health had said the vessel will remain in quarantine until February 19.
The health ministry imposed the quarantine after it discovered that a man who disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25 had tested positive for the virus.
The ship’s operator, Princess Cruises, said in a statement on Monday that 66 new infections of the coronavirus have been confirmed on board the Diamond Princess.
Japanese health officials had confirmed that among the new infections, there were 45 Japanese, 11 Americans, four Australians, three from the Philippines and one each from Canada and Ukraine, the company said.
After two weeks of confinement, the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines has fully recovered and has been discharged from the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
In a press conference, Department of Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the 38-year-old Chinese female, who was admitted last Jan. 25 after exhibiting symptoms of the virus, has been discharged last Sunday.
She arrived in Cebu via Hong Kong last Jan. 21 and also went to Dumaguete City before heading to Manila.
He companion, a 44-year-old Chinese male, also tested positive for the virus and later died also at San Lazaro. Aside from the Chinese couple, a 60-year-old Chinese female became the 3rd confirmed nCoV case in the country. She was found positive only after she was previously found negative of the virus and has been discharged. She later returned to Wuhan.
But while the first confirmed case has been discharged, the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) in the country continued to rise.
According to Domingo, there are now 314 PUIs in the country, adding: “Almost all regions have reported at least one person under investigation.” Among those awaiting testing results, 261 remained in hospitals while 48 have been discharged.
Domingo said there is still no local nCoV transmission in the Philippines.
“So far, we’ve seen that there is no community transmission yet. Our confirmed cases remain those that are imported. We hope that we keep out the community transmission,” said Domingo.
Despite having no local transmission, the DOH is strongly discouraging the public from attending, participating in, and organizing events that draw a huge number of attendees.
BAN INCLUDES TAIWAN
The DOH yesterday declared that the temporary travel ban to China and its special administrative regions (SARs) due to nCoV actually includes Taiwan.
Asked for the basis of the inclusion of Taiwan, Domingo cited the World Health Organization map classification.
“I think there is even a presidential proclamation and as far as the WHO community is concerned, Taiwan is part of China,” said Domingo.
President Duterte had ordered the imposition of a temporary travel ban on travelers to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau due to the nCoV threat.
The DOH said there are now 49 individuals quarantined in the next 14 days at the Athletes’ Village at the New Clark City in Tarlac. They have been declared as Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs). Of 49, 32 are the repatriated Overseas Filipinos from Wuhan, composed of 14 females and 18 males.
Also quarantined are eight members of the Philippine repatriation team, six plane crew members, and three ground crew operators.
Last Sunday, the government successfully repatriated 32 Filipinos from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the nCoV.
MORE CHINESE ARRIVE
A total of 124 passengers, including 51 Chinese, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 2 aboard a Philippine Airlines special flight from Xiamen, China on Monday.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the flight, with six cabin crew and two pilots, landed at 1:16 p.m. carrying 73 OFWs and 51 Chinese holding permanent visas, including five kids.
PAL mounted the special flight to help stranded Chinese passengers in Manila and OFWs stranded in Xiamen affected by the travel ban ordered by President Duterte last Feb. 2.
Villaluna said all the passengers and the flight crew were ferried to the terminal where they were assisted by the Bureau of Quarantine and facilitated by the Bureau of Immigrations in a separate designated area.
All passengers and flight crew will undergo 14 days (of) mandatory self-quarantine under strict monitoring by quarantine personnel through their mobile phones to check on their health status.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente announced that 19 immigration officers who boarded vessels that carried passengers with travel history from China and its special administrative regions have been put on home quarantine “as a preventive measure.”
Morente said the 19 immigration officers boarded five different cruise ships with passengers who have visited China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the last 14 days, and arrived between January to February. – With Osias Osorio