MANILA — Hundreds of Filipinos who disembarked from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan will be quarantined for another 2 weeks after they are repatriated to the Philippines, the health department said Thursday.
Authorities will finalize Thursday plans for bringing home Filipinos from the ship Diamond Princess, which was quarantined for 14 days south of Tokyo, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
About 530 of the 3,700 people on board the ship are Filipinos, mostly crew members. The ship had 621 coronavirus cases, of which at least 41 are Filipinos, easily the biggest cluster of infected people outside China, authorities said.
"Kailangan ilagay pa rin [sila sa panibagong quarantine]... Hindi naman natin alam kung itong virus na ito ay puwedeng bumalik, kung may immunity ba," Duque told DZMM.
"Ang tanong d'yan, once infected, 'pag gumaling ka, ikaw ba ay hindi na puwedeng tamaan? Hindi natin alam iyon kasi bago itong virus e," he added.
(They should be placed in another quarantine in the Philippines. We don't if this virus can return, if there is immunity. The question there is, once you are infected and you got well, could you still get the virus? We don't know because this is a new virus.)
The disease has now claimed more than 2,000 lives in China and spread panic worldwide.
A Filipino in the United Arab Emirates is in "critical condition" due to the pathogen, while another Filipino in Hong Kong tested positive, said Duque.
Some 32 other Filipinos rescued from Wuhan, China -- the global epicenter of the outbreak -- were well and would be released from their quarantine in Tarlac province on Saturday, he said.
The Philippines confirmed 3 "imported" cases of the virus, including 1 death so far, all Chinese nationals from Wuhan.
Authorities are monitoring some 135 people for possible infection and have discharged around 398 patients who tested negative, said Duque.
The Philippines has banned inbound travel from China to curb the spread of the disease. It earlier lifted a travel ban on Taiwan and the special Chinese administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
The immigration bureau from Thursday also suspended the use of e-gates at the capital's airport as a precaution against the new coronavirus. With a report from Agence France-Presse