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70 coronavirus-infected Filipinos left behind in Japan

MANILA, Philippines — Seventy infected Filipino crew members of the cruise ship Diamond Princess were left behind in Japan on Tuesday as the Philippine government evacuated more than 400 of its citizens from the coronavirus-wracked vessel docked south of Tokyo.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that, as of Tuesday, 80 of the Filipinos aboard the ship had tested posi­tive for the new coronavirus that was spreading from China.

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Ten of the Filipinos had recovered and been discharged, the DFA said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters that the Filipinos who were left behind were receiving treatment in hospitals in and around Tokyo.

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Philippine Airlines sent two chartered planes to Tokyo on Tuesday to pick up the Filipinos to be extracted from the cruise ship moored off Yokohama. The first plane, carrying staff from the DFA, landed at Haneda airport in Tokyo at 4:27 p.m. and the second at 6 p.m. Japan time.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) could not give the exact number of repatriates because anyone who would show symptoms of the flu-like disease would not be allowed to board the plane and would instead be taken to the nearest hospital.

A similar check would be done on disembarkation at Clark International Airport in Angeles City, Pampanga province. Those who would show no symptoms would be taken to Athletes’ Village at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac province, for a two-week quarantine and those who would show symptoms would be taken to area hospitals equipped to handle the infection.

Later on Tuesday, the DFA said the first plane carried 311 repatriates and the second flew home 140.

Capas Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan said 525 isolation rooms at Athletes’ Village were ready for the repatriates.

There were originally 538 Filipinos aboard the Dia­mond Princess. Seven of them were passengers and the rest members of the ship’s crew.

The Filipinos began to disembark from the stricken ship at around 3 p.m. Japan time. Photos provided by the DFA showed the Filipinos emerging from the vessel wearing disposable masks, with some also wearing disposable gloves, and presenting themselves for passport checking.

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They were met by personnel from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and the DOH wearing protective suits, goggles and masks.

From the Port of Yokohama, where the cruise ship has been moored since Feb. 5, the Filipinos traveled by bus to Haneda airport in Tokyo where they boarded the Philippine Airlines planes.

The first plane was expected to land at Clark at 8:30 p.m. and the second at 10:40 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

The Diamond Princess, with more than 3,700 passengers and crew, was quarantined on Feb. 5 after authori­ties learned that a former passenger who got off the ship in Hong Kong had tested posi­tive for the new coronavirus.

Nearly 700 people on board the vessel have tested positive for the virus. Four who were hospitalized after being taken off the ship have died.

South Korea travel ban

On Wednesday, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases will decide whether to impose a ban on travel to and from South Korea, where there are now 893 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, the largest outside China, which now has 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths.

Duque said the task force would listen to representatives from different sectors then decide whether to restrict travel to and from South Korea.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday said he opposed a travel ban.

“If we are asked, we will not recommend a travel ban on South Korea. Our labor office there is also not recommending a travel ban,” Bello said.

More than 13,000 Filipinos work in South Korea. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, MARIA ADELAIDA CALAYAG, TONETTE OREJAS, AP AND AFP INQ

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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