BY GERARD NAVAL and ASHZEL HACHERO
EIGHTY Filipinos from the MV Diamond Princess cruise ship were left behind in Japan yesterday after they were found positive of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Some 450 Filipinos headed for home yesterday via two chartered flights from the Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, after being cleared by quarantine personnel.
“There have been 80 that were found positive. So they won’t be included in the repatriation,” said Duque.
All Filipinos from cruise ship hit with COVID-19, though, are experiencing mild symptoms only, he said.
“But definitely, the number of those to be repatriated got smaller,” said Duque.
Based on established repatriation protocols, only asymptomatic individuals will be allowed to fly home.
According to Duque, only some 450 Filipinos will be headed by home after being cleared by quarantine personnel.
“We cannot give a definitive number of repatriates until they have come onboard. We will be making sure that those with symptoms won’t be able to get on those flights,” said Duque.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay Jr. said 10 of the 80 have been discharged.
“Eighty Filipinos from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have so far tested positive for COVID-19. Ten have since been discharged with clean bill of health,” he said.
The repatriates, upon arrival, will be brought directly to the quarantine facility in New Clark City in Tarlac.
Records show there were 538 Filipinos aboard the cruise ship, including 531 crew members and seven guest passengers.
The first aircraft chartered by the government for the repatriation of the Filipinos aboard the Diamond Princess left Haneda airport at past 6 p.m. for the over three hours flight to Manila.
“First PAL flight carrying 309 Filipinos from Diamond Princess has just taken off from Haneda airport,” Dulay said.
Meanwhile, Duque said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases is set to decide on whether to amend protocols for members of the flight and cabin crew going to and from COVID-affected countries.
This is in line with the appeal of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) for the government to exempt their airline crew members from the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
“There is this recommendation to exempt them since they are sealed off from the passengers, and also because they are wearing personal protective equipment (PPEs),” said Duque.
Earlier, ACAP asked for exemption for airline crew saying they will be running out of personnel if all their flight personnel will be placed under quarantine.
The task force has a scheduled meeting today.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said financial assistance and awards await the 500 crew members of the MV Diamond Princess cruise ship.
“We will provide temporary financial assistance of P10,000. That’s the assistance that we will extend to active OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) members if they come home,” said Bello.
He said the financial assistance will be doubled if they decide to stay home and not seek redeployment.
“We found out from Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, which is their manning agency, that they will be redeploying them,” added Bello.
Aside from financial assistance, a government award for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) likely awaits the crew members.
“They may be considered for Bagong Bayani Awards. Imagine they are quarantined in the ship but they are still serving others,” he said. “There is gallantry there.”
The Bagong Bayani Awards (BBA) is a worldwide search for outstanding and exemplary overseas Filipino workers.