Over 400 Filipinos from coronavirus-hit cruise ship placed under stricter quarantine in Tarlac

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — Over 440 Filipino crew and passengers from the coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan and the team that brought them home will be placed under stricter quarantine as compared to the Filipinos who came from Chinese city Wuhan — the epicenter of the deadly virus.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday different measures are in place this time at the Athlete's Village in New Clark City, Tarlac because the transmission rate is different inside the Diamond Princess cruise ship  docked in Japan.

The number of coronavirus cases on the cruise ship reached nearly 700. On Wednesday, 57 Americans who were evacuated after the mandatory 14-day quarantine tested positive for coronavirus, US health officials said.

"This time it's going to be different from the previous repatriation because as we know the transmission dynamics in the ship was different from what we had when we had our Wuhan repatriates. So this time their movement will be limited," she told CNN Philippines.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, said 445 Filipinos were evacuated from the ship in Japan, including 440 crew members and 5 tourists. Meanwhile, the DOH and Department of Foreign Affairs had a 13-man repartriation team, bringing the number of people to be quaratined to 458.

Vergeire said DOH has prepared psychosocial support to help them deal with the prolonged quarantine. All the passengers and crew who tested negative for the virus underwent the 14-day quarantine and underwent monitoring before flying back to the Philippines.

"We have teams which are properly trained to do that and they have been deployed in the quarantine facility," she said.

She said the new batch of repatriates in New Clark City will be monitored twice a day to see if any of them would develop flu-like symptoms. Once any of them would exhibit signs and symptoms, they would be immediately referred to designated hospitals, she added.

The group from the cruise ship arrived in the country in two batches on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning. They were all checked for symptoms linked to the virus before they were allowed to enter the New Clark City.

On the other hand, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Board of Trustees agreed that the Filipino seafarers of the cruise ship will be provided with ₱10,000 financial assistance, free transport from Manila to home region, and ₱20,000 livelihood grant if they decided to stay in the Philippines.

The Capas government, who complained about the use of New Clark City as quarantine facility for the Wuhan repatriates, said they have already accepted that the sporting center is the only facility at the moment that can accomodate such a huge number of evacuees.

They said they want assurance from the national government that nearby residents will be safe from any illnesses.

"Dagdagan na lang ang tulong sa labas, kung ano man ang sa tingin nila pwede ibigay sa bayan ng Capas o serbisyo man o gamot upang maibsan ang kinatatakutan o agam-agam ng mga tao," Capas, Tarlac Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan said.

Near the compound, there are health desks courtesy of the Department of Health and the local government. They distribute free medicine and administer check-ups to the locals.

Meanwhile, 70 Filipino crew members of the Diamond Princess who tested positive for the coronavirus remain admitted in hospitals in Tokyo, Japan, while 10 have recovered and were discharged.