By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) expressed its readiness to treat the repatriates from M/V Diamond Princess in case they turn positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during their quarantine period.
“As observed in other countries, there is still a possibility that our nationals may eventually test positive upon their return. We have prepared and equipped our hospitals and laboratory facilities, and allocated all necessary resources and PPEs (personal protective equipment) should this happen,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
“We have placed measures for the appropriate isolation and management of individuals who may eventually test positive for COVID-19 to contain transmission. We are ready to address any possible scenario. Our priority is always the welfare of our kababayans (countrymen),” he added.
Duque said 445 Filipinos from the M/V Diamond Princess cruise ship were repatriated on Tuesday evening.
“Among the 445 repatriated overseas Filipinos are 440 crew members and five tourists. They are currently quarantined in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac,” the health chief said, adding that the 13 repatriation team members from DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs were also quarantined, bringing the total of persons under quarantine to 458.
Duque said all quarantined individuals will be assessed twice daily. They will also be provided with food, hygiene kits, and appropriate health services, he added.
“An ambulance team is also on standby 24/7 to conduct hospital referrals, if needed. DOH hospitals in Central Luzon are prepared to cater to those who may manifest respiratory symptoms or fever,” the health chief said.
Meanwhile, the 80 Filipinos who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were still aboard the said cruise ship will remain in the care of the medical facilities in Japan.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said on Tuesday that 10 of the 80 individuals were already discharged “with clean bill of health.”
“The return of the 10 out of the 80 that have been discharged already is still being discussed,” Duque said.
In a related development, Duque said they have long been preparing for the possibility of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic.
“We have been preparing long before this anticipation manifested by the WHO (World Health Organization) of a possible pandemic. And we are doing this at different levels,” Duque said.
The health chief said their preparations include incident planning and management in case of local transmission, surveillance and risk-assessment, laboratory capacity building, and clinical management and hospital care.
Recently, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 has the potential to become a pandemic.
“Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet. What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response. The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning,” he said last Monday.