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4 more Filipinos on cruise ship in Japan infected with nCoV

Diamond Princess at the Yokohama Port

Journalists work near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship sitting at the Yokohama Port Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, Yokohama, Japan. The operator of the ship said Monday that an additional 66 cases were found aboard. That is in addition to 70 reported earlier. (Photo by EUGENE HOSHIKO / AP)

Updated @ 1:20 a.m., Feb. 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Four more Filipinos aboard a cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama, Japan, tested positive on Sunday for the new coronavirus, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported on Monday.

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The four Filipinos, all crew members of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, were among the six new cases diagnosed on Sunday aboard the vessel moored off the port city of Yokohama, the DFA said.

They are being treated in hospitals in Japan, like the first Filipino aboard the ship to test positive for the new virus, the DFA said, quoting a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

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The first Filipino case is also a crew member of the ship. There are 538 Filipinos aboard the vessel, all crew except for seven passengers.

READ: Filipino crew member of Japan cruise ship tests positive for nCoV

The Philippine Embassy is “in constant communication” with all the Filipinos aboard the ship to provide them all possible assistance, the DFA said.

The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since arriving in Yokohama early last week after the new virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong.

There are now seven Filipino cases of the new coronavirus, including two maids under quarantine in Hong Kong.

Despite reports of people under observation in nearly all the regions of the country, there is no local transmission of the virus, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.

As of noon Monday, the DOH said 314 people had been monitored for infection. Of these, 261 are confined in various hospitals across the country, 48 have been discharged but remain under strict monitoring. Two had died of pneumonia while being mo­nitored, the DOH said.

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Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the three confirmed cases in the country were Chinese travelers from Wuhan. He said the first case, a 38-year-old woman who arrived in the country in January had recovered and was discharged on Saturday. She was fetched from the hospital by Chinese Embassy personnel, he said.

The second case was the woman’s 44-year-old companion who died on Feb. 1. The third was a 60-year-old woman from Wuhan who arrived in late January and came down with the disease. She had recovered and left the country on Jan. 31.

Only Zamboanga Peninsula and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have not reported people under observation for the virus.

Of the regions with monitoring cases, the National Capital Region has reported 105, followed by Central Luzon (27) and Calabarzon (26).

Western Visayas has 23 monitoring cases. Of these, 16 have turned out negative, while the results of tests for the rest are being awaited.

Not airborne

Domingo sought to ease the public’s fears following reports that the virus had been found to be airborne. What is known so far is that the virus is spread through droplets and close contact with infected people.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Domingo said, there’s “nothing conclusive about it at this time.”

“It’s still being studied by [the] WHO. Until we’re given any hard evidence, right now the WHO has not classified it as an airborne infection,” he said.

At New Clark City in Tarlac province, Domingo said all the 30 Filipinos evacuated from Wuhan on Sunday and the 19 flight crew, government personnel and vehicle drivers who helped bring them home were doing well. The Filipinos are quarantined at Athletes’ Village in Capas town. Domingo said they were being monitored twice a day.

Capas Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan deployed medical teams to conduct random checkups among residents of the town. Municipal public order and safety officer Edgar Guevarra said the checkups were inten­ded to ease fears that the virus might spread in the town.

Capas officials and many residents oppose the use of Athletes’ Village as quarantine for the repatriated Filipinos. But they have failed to block the repatriates’ transfer there because the pro­perty is owned by the government, which has told them to cooperate in trying to prevent the spread of the virus in the country.

More than 50 Filipinos in Wuhan had asked to be evacua­ted but only 29 adults and an infant were taken home on a chartered flight on Sunday. But 15 were unable to get out because of documentation problems, while the rest, according to the DFA, decided to stay after observing improvements in conditions in the city or chose to stay so as not to lose their jobs.

Transport not provided

But a Filipino graduate student pursuing higher studies at a university in Wuhan said he was unable to join the evacuation on Sunday because he could not find transport to the airport.

The student, who asked not to be named, told his friends in Manila through a messaging app that the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai had told him “to look for my way to go to the airport.”

“My school is 90 minutes [from the airport]. Given the prohibition [against] private vehicles, there is no way I can go to the airport by myself. Many backed out because of this,” he said.

The Bureau of Immigration reported on Monday that it had put on home quarantine 19 immigration officers who had boarded cruise ships that had carried passengers who had traveled to China, Hong Kong or Macau.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that though neither the officers nor the ship passengers they had inspected showed no symptoms, they were still put in quarantine “to ensure [they] are protected from the virus.”

In Malacañang, Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo told at a press briefing that the government might expand its temporary ban on travel to and from China, Hong Kong and Macau to include Taiwan.

He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases was studying the matter.

The travel ban has sparked fears among Filipinos vacationing here from jobs in China, Hong Kong and Macau. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, however, sought to ease their fears, saying employers in Hong Kong had granted an extension of the Filipinos’ vacation leaves.

—With a report from AFP

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TAGS: 2019-nCoV, Department of Foreign Affairs, DFA, Diamond Princess, Filipino crew members, nation, novel coronavirus, Philippine Embassy in Tokyo
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