Philippines readies repatriation from Japan ship as COVID-19 cases rise

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 08:30 AM | Updated as of Feb 24 2020 08:41 AM

A bus arrives near the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, February 16, 2020. Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters

MANILA -- The number of Filipinos who tested positive for the new coronavirus disease on board a cruise ship off Japan rose to 59, a health official said Monday, as the government moved to repatriate them.

All of the 59 are crew members of the Diamond Princess. Seven Filipino passengers tested negative for COVID-19, one of whom was placed on quarantine after having contact with a confirmed case, said Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

"Lahat po ay naayos na, hopefully by tomorrow po maiuwi natin sila," Vergeire told radio DZMM.

(Everything is set, hopefully by Tuesday we can bring them home.)

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Sunday said government was set to repatriate all Filipinos aboard the cruise ship after their trip home was deferred to allow the completion of laboratory tests.

The vessel, moored off the Japanese coast in Yokohama near Tokyo, has the biggest cluster of coronavirus infections outside the Chinese epicenter, with over 600 cases confirmed among the 3,700 passengers and crew.

Vergeire said an inter-agency body would discuss travel bans to other countries such as Singapore, which reported Sunday a Filipino infected with COVID-19, and South Korea which has raised its highest alert level due to the virus.

Some 200,000 Filipinos reside and work in Singapore, while there are 1,600 Filipinos in Daegu and 2,600 in Yongsan, South Korea, officials said.