MANILA (UPDATE) - Three crew members of a COVID-hit vessel from Indonesia disembarked in Butuan before getting their COVID-19 test results, an official said Wednesday.
The vessel arrived on July 14 and the three crew members left the ship the next day to buy food at the public market, said Butuan City administrator Rey Desiata. The ship left Butuan on July 16, he added.
The public market has been disinfected and contact tracing was conducted, Desiata said.
"Nung umalis na 'yung barko dun kami nasabihan. Right away we did our contact tracing. Investigation is ongoing and we’ll be submitting it to (Interior) Secretary Eduardo Año within the day po," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We were informed after the ship left.)
"Medyo challenging po ang contact tracing natin. We did decontamination muna. May surveillance unit kaming nilagay."
(Contact tracing is challenging. We did decontamination first. We also placed a surveillance unit.)
Health authorities earlier said 12 of the 20 all-Filipino crew members had tested positive for COVID infection. The tugboat is now docked in Albay, it added.
Another crew member who disembarked and commuted to Cagayan de Oro City has been turned over to Zamboanga province and placed in quarantine there, according to Desiata.
The local government of Butuan was not informed of the crew members' swab tests as these were done by a relative of one of the ship's personnel from Agusan del Sur, Desiata said.
"Sa ibang laboratory pala pina-test 'yung samples ng mga tripulante, from our neighbor province," he said.
(They got their tests done in a laboratory from our neighbor province.)
The tugboat and its barge are "tightly guarded" 8 kilometers off the shore of Albay by police, the Philippine Coast Guard and local authorities, said Gremil Naz, spokesman of the Office of Civil Defense-Bicol.
The vessel's owner will provide food while the regional incident team will provide medical attention as the virus patients remain under quarantine, he added.
"Ang last na information po sa amin, nakausap po ni (PCG-Albay) Captain (Wilmo) Maquirang ang kapitan ng barko. Ang sabi naman po malakas pa po sa kalabaw ang crew members. It’s good news na kahit papaano di malala ang nararamdaman nilang sakit ngayon," he said.
(The last information to us was that Captain Maquirang talked to the captain of the ship who said all crew members are stronger than carabaos. It's good news that their sickness is not that bad.)
The Department of Health earlier said it collected 5 samples from the COVID-19 patients aboard the vessel and sent these to the Philippine Genome Center for sequencing to determine if they are infected with a foreign variant.
The genome sequencing might take 20 to 30 days, according to Naz.
The vessel's point of origin, Indonesia, is the current epicenter of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia and cases there spiked due to the more transmissible Delta variant.
Of the 35 Delta variant carriers in the Philippines, 3 died, while 24 others have recovered from the disease, according to data from the DOH.
Eight other Delta variant carriers who supposedly recovered from COVID-19, tested positive for the virus again after they underwent another RT-PCR test, the DOH said.
--With reports from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News