More than 400 Filipinos return home from coronavirus-struck cruise ship MV Grand Princess

Repatriates arriving from MV Grand Princess at Subic, Clark <i>Photo: Department of Health Philippines</i>
Repatriates arriving from MV Grand Princess at Subic, Clark Photo: Department of Health Philippines

A total of 444 Filipinos from the virus-hit cruise ship MV Grand Princess, which was stranded off California, arrived in the Philippines early this morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced today in a statement.

The DFA said the returnees comprise 438 crew members, and six passengers, all of whom went through health checks with U.S. officials before boarding a chartered flight from San Francisco to Clark Airbase in Pampanga. They arrived in the country a little past 2am.

After landing, the returnees were transported on chartered buses to the Athletes’ Village at New Clark City (NCC) in Tarlac for a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

NCC also previously housed returnees from another virus-struck cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off Yokohama, Japan after a coronavirus outbreak on board. The Department of Health confirmed last week that 442 of the 445 returnees from the Diamond Princess have completed their quarantines and been released. Of the remaining three, two are crew members (cases PH25 and PH26) who tested positive for the virus, and were referred to the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga. The department did not specify the status of the 445th returnee.

The latest batch of returnees from the Grand Princess did not include 94 Filipinos who were also aboard the ship. This includes 78 Filipino crew members who volunteered to stay behind to man the ship, three California residents who disembarked and stayed in the U.S., and 13 crew members who tested positive for COVID-19 and were transferred to U.S. hospitals where they are currently receiving treatment.

The group from the U.S. is the third batch of Filipinos brought home by the DFA from coronavirus-hit areas. In addition to the passengers of the two cruise ships, a group of overseas Filipino workers were repatriated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus.

As of this morning, the number of recorded COVID-19 cases in the country had risen to 140, of whom 12 have died. Overseas, at least 107 Filipinos have contracted the disease to date: 80 from the Diamond Princess, 13 from the Grand Princess, seven from Singapore, five in Hong Kong, and two in the United Arab Emirates.

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