A cruise ship Australia has launched a criminal investigation into suspected mishandling of an outbreak of coronavirus, has arrived in the Philippines to allow healthy Filipino crew members to return home.
The virus-hit Ruby Princess, which has been linked to at least 600 infections and 21 COVID-19 deaths, was spotted in the vicinity of Mindoro this morning and is expected to drop anchor in Manila Bay, CNN Philippines reports.
Some 214 Filipino employees aboard the ship will remain on the vessel as they undergo coronavirus tests, with results expected in about three days, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo told CNN Philippines.
Crew members who test positive will be brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa, while those cleared of the disease will be advised to isolate themselves for 14 days at home.
That’s contrary to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles’ statement last month that returning crewmen from foreign cruise ships would have to remain on their vessels for 14 days before being allowed to disembark.
Australia launched a criminal investigation into Carnival Corporation after it allowed its roughly 2,700 Ruby Princess passengers to freely disembark in Sydney despite some of them showing COVID-19 symptoms. In the weeks since it docked, at least 662 people linked to the cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, which accounts for more than 10% of Australia’s total recorded cases, The Guardian reports.
It’s one of several ships operated by Carnival Cruises to experience a significant outbreak, including the Diamond Princess, on which hundreds took ill just offshore from Japan. Carnival recently said it plans to resume operations in August. Australian police say their investigation is likely to continue until September.
The Ruby Princess will join at least 16 other cruise ships docked in Manila Bay since last month holding more than 5,000 people awaiting testing before they can disembark, according to coast guard spokesman Balilo.
Yesterday, the Philippine Coast Guard said nearly 7,000 returnees, which include land- and sea-based Overseas Filipino Workers, were tested for the disease between Saturday and Wednesday.
“While waiting for the test results and the issuance of their quarantine clearances, OFWs are requested to remain in isolation and comply with the health protocols for their safety amid COVID-19 pandemic. Rest assured that once necessary clearances are issued, the Department of Transportation will coordinate their transport so they may finally go home to their families,” it said.