DOH thru BOQ AID FOREIGN VESSEL SEEKING REFUGE AND RESCUE FILIPINOS ABOARD, ASSURE NO NEW VARIANTS WILL BE INTRODUCED IN THE COUNTRY

Press Release | 07 May 2021

The Department of Health (DOH) through the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) on Thursday assisted the MV Athens Bridge in its entry into the country and provided immediate medical aid to its crew members after 12 of its Filipino crew tested positive for COVID-19, with 2 in critical condition. The vessel carrying 21 Filipinos crew members sought refuge on May 3, and was reported to have had travel history to India.

Despite this, upon learning of vessel agent Ben Line Agencies’ request for vessel acceptance to the Philippines, the DOH immediately directed the BOQ to facilitate medical rescue of the Filipinos aboard the vessel. The BOQ, together with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) immediately conducted an emergency meeting to coordinate the medivac of 2 Filipinos in critical condition and determine the best course of action for the rest of the crew.

“Considering the growing concern of this recent variant first detected in India, we were made aware that the vessel had travel history to the country. But in deciding our action steps, our guiding principle was that those were our hardworking kababayans aboard and we would never leave any Filipino behind,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

The 2 Filipinos needing immediate medical attention were transferred to a hospital in Metro Manila. After careful consideration, the vessel was not deemed fit as a quarantine facility for the crew to undergo isolation due to lack of rooms. Hence, the 10 remaining COVID-19 positive crew with mild cases will be transferred to a BOQ quarantine facility together with the rest of the exposed crew.

The DOH assured that the conduct of the rescue operations is done with the observance of strict protocols on handling of COVID-19 patients. “We recognize the risk that this act of compassion brings, but we assure Filipinos that we complied with the protocols in handling COVID-19 patients and have coordinated with other government agencies to deliver urgent assistance to our kababayans. We also thank everyone who assisted the crew of MV Athens Bridge,” Sec. Duque said.