Press Release / February 26, 2020
The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) repatriated 445 Overseas Filipinos (OFs) from the M/V Diamond Princess cruise ship late night of February 25. Returning OFs were transported in two batches of 309 and 136, respectively.
Among the 445 repatriated OFs are 440 crew members and five (5) tourists. They are currently quarantined in New Clark City (NCC), Capas, Tarlac, together with the 13 repatriation team members from DOH (9) and DFA (4), bringing the total of persons under quarantine to 458.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has directed the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to take all the necessary measures to ensure the health and safe return of our kababayans aboard the cruise ship. The well-being of our fellow Filipinos, no matter where they are, is of utmost importance,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III assured.
DOH only allowed the repatriation of Filipinos who tested negative for the COVID-19 in Japan. The repatriates underwent five levels of screening for fever and respiratory signs and symptoms — (1) prior to disembarking from the cruise ship, (2) before boarding the bus to Haneda airport, (3) during the flight, (4) upon landing at Clark Air Base, and (5) upon arrival at the quarantine facility.
All of the OFs were asymptomatic throughout the flight and were transferred directly to the quarantine facility in NCC. All quarantined individuals will be assessed twice daily, once via telemedicine and another assessment through actual physical examination. They will be provided with food, hygiene kits, and appropriate health services. 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.
“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 should this happen,” Duque said.
The Department is continuously monitoring the situation and will update its 14-day prescribed quarantine procedure based on evidence and new developments.
“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,” the Health Chief remarked.
IATF Agreement on SoKor Travel Restriction
The IATF-EID resolved to impose travel restrictions for passengers from North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, effective immediately. Filipinos and their foreign spouses or children, and holders of permanent resident and diplomatic visas will be allowed entry subject to existing screening and quarantine protocols. The travel restriction will be reviewed and re-evaluated within the next 48 hours based on new developments.
On the other hand, any travel to South Korea will be temporarily suspended. Only permanent residents of South Korea, Filipinos leaving for study, and OFWs returning for work will be allowed provided that they sign a written declaration acknowledging the risks involved which will be complemented with a health advisory pamphlet.