By Raymund Antonio
The more than 500 Filipino crew members aboard a cruise ship being held on quarantine off Yokohama, Japan will be repatriated soon, according to Labor Secretary Silvestro Bello III on Sunday.
In a radio interview on DZMM, Bello said the Philippines will start the repatriation of Filipinos onboard cruise ship Diamond Princess, but he did not give an exact date for their return.
“Mayroong report to that effect na, as early as bago ako umalis. Mayroon nang repatriation process na ginagawa para maiuwi iyong ating 500-plus na Filipino crew members,” he said.
(There was already a report to that effect, as early as before I left. There is already a repatriation process that is being done to bring home our 500-plus Filipino crew members.)
“Ang alam ko, i-uuwi na. Hindi ko lang alam kung ano exact date,” the labor official added.
(I know that they will be brought home already. I just don’t know when is the exact date.)
The Diamond Princess, carrying 3,500 passengers and crew, has been moored off Yokohama port since February 4 after an 80-year old passenger who departed from Hong Kong tested positive for the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The total number of infected Filipino crew members on the cruise ship has climbed to 11. They are now being treated in various hospitals in Tokyo due to the deadly virus.
There are still 538 Filipinos, who are onboard the ship, and they have been placed on a 14-day quarantine until Wednesday, February 19.
Bello told DZMM he has “coordinated with the agency of the Filipino crew members on the request of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is already looking at a possible quarantine facility” when they fly back home.
The DOLE chief noted the Filipinos “continue to receive pay while under quarantine, and will also get the usual reintegration assistance” from the government.
In a report of Kyodo News, Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato said Sunday that the number of infected passengers and crew from the Diamond Princess has risen by 70 to 355.
Of this number, 38 of them did not show symptoms such as fever and coughing, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
The ministry has so far tested a total of 1,219 people aboard the cruise ship.