Filipino on Japan ship recovers, number of remaining coronavirus-infected at 40

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) – A Filipino member of the crew aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked off Japan has recovered from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and is set to be released from the hospital, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

The DFA said the male crew member was admitted to the hospital on February 5 and and is the first among infected Filipinos to be "successfully treated." He was scheduled for discharge Wednesday.

Fourty other Filipinos who have tested positive for COVID-19 are confined in medical facilities in and around the Tokyo metropolitan area, the DFA added, including six recently confirmed cases.

Amid the rising number of Filipinos on board the ship infected with the virus, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin on Wednesday ordered the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo to immediately bring home the Filipinos aboard the Diamond Princess.

"I want them home now," Locsin said.

Ahead of Locsin's directive, members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases agreed that Filipinos onboard the coronavirus-hit vessel will be evacuated if they want to, provided that they do not have symptoms of the COVID-19.

"All Filipino passengers and crew of the MV Diamond Princess who will request repatriation will be accommodated by the Philippine government in accordance with the guidelines set by the Department of Health," said Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a media briefing.

The Diamond Princess management said the Japanese Ministry of Health has begun the disembarkation process Wednesday and it will take a few days. Those who intend to leave the ship will have to be tested and the results will take two to three days to complete, the ship management said. Japanese health authorities will then grant a certificate that states a negative result to allow guests to leave the vessel.

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo said it will repatriate the Filipinos there as soon as possible as the quarantine ended Wednesday.

Another quarantine

Upon arrival to the country, the evacuees will be required to undergo another 14-day quarantine as precaution, Vergeire said. There are a total of seven passengers and 531 Diamond Princess crew members who are Filipinos on the cruise ship. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said Wednesday that of the total Filipino employees there, 401 wanted to come home. The rest opted to stay, as they are thinking about their employment contracts, Dulay said.

The crew members are among the thousands of people who underwent a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess vessel. Of those quarantined, Japanese authorities reported that a total of 545 people contracted the COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

Vergeire also said the task force on emerging infectious diseases is eyeing a quarantine facility, but refused to disclose the location. She said authorities still need to coordinate with concerned offices and local governments. Earlier, the task force was criticized after it failed to inform the municipality of Capas, Tarlac that it will use New Clark City as a quarantine area for the 49 people from Hubei province-- in particular, Wuhan City, the provincial capital where the outbreak began.

Authorities are still ironing out other details.

Passengers have begun disembarking from the cruise ship after they were quarantined for two weeks, CNN reported.

Guests of the ship will receive a full refund — covering air travel, hotel, ground transportation,"pre-paid shore excursions" and others, Diamond Princess said. The ship management added that the guests will not incur charges for additional time on board and they will receive credits for future cruises equal to the fare they paid for their trip.

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READ: Diamond Princess cruise passengers disembark after 14-day quarantine ends in Japan