MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of Filipinos onboard a Japanese cruise ship where scores tested positive for COVID-19 might have to wait longer before coming home to the Philippines since testing for the virus is not yet finished.
A Department of Health official on Saturday said that testing of crew members and some passengers for the coronavirus is only halfway through, which means the repatriation initially targeted on Sunday could possibly be delayed.
“We just received word from our embassy in Japan informing us of this matter…as of yesterday, ang natatapos pa lang po ay kalahati pa lang (only half have finished testing for the virus),” Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in interview with DZBB.
“Eh ang isang kondisyon natin, they have to be tested and they turn out negative bago natin sila i-uwi.”
(One of our conditions is that they have to be tested and they turn out negative before being repatriated to the Philippines.)
In a Friday statement, Malacañang said that a total of 497 Filipinos currently quarantined on the Diamond Princess docked in Japan are expected to be repatriated early next week.
Upon arrival at the Clark International Aiport, they will be quarantined for another two-week period at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City. Any repatriate who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 will instead be brought to the nearest hospital.
Meanwhile, those who display signs of illness before leaving the cruise will remain in Japan for treatment.
As of writing, there is no final decision on the Filipinos being quarantined on the ship.
“Hindi pa ho natin nabibigyan ng desisyon 'yan because we're trying to find out all the details before we will decide kung anong option po ang ite-take ng ating government,” Vergeire said.
(Nothing has been decided yet because we're trying to find out all the details before we will decide what option our government will take.)
“And of course, ang desisyon po na iyan ay idadaan ulit sa Inter-Agency Task Force (on Emerging Infectious Diseases) so baka nga 'yun ho ay magtawag sila at mag-usap-usap kung ano po 'yung pinakamagandang gagawin ng Pilipinas para sa desisyon na ito.”
(And of course, that decision will be directed to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases so they might call a meeting and discuss the best course of action for the Philippines for this decision.)
Options being weighed include prioritizing the repatriation of those who have already finished tests and leave the other half behind for the time being.
“Pwede rin naman pong i-delay 'yung araw ng pag-uwi nung mga repatriates hanggang makatapos para isang batch lang sila. So pinag-iisipan po 'yan ngayon at pinagdedesisyunan.”
(Another measure is to delay the date of repatriation until everyone finishes testing so that they will return as one batch. So that is being deliberated at the moment.)
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