16 more Filipinos infected with virus - GulfToday

16 more Filipinos infected with virus


A passenger, wearing a protective mask, attempts to get off a train in Manila on Monday. Reuters

Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent

Sixteen more Filipino crewmen aboard a quarantined luxury ship off Japan have been afflicted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing to 27 the total number of such cases from the dreaded ailment, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

But while the virus continued to get top priority as the country’s major problem, health officials sounded the alarm regarding polio that has claimed its 17th victim — a one-year-old boy from Nueva Ecija province in Central Luzon. Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the patient manifested fever and sudden weakness in the left lower limb, adding this indicated that, “We have evidence that polio virus continues to spread” in the country.

Meanwhile, the foreign office said the discovery of the 16 new COVID-19 cases among the 500 Filipino crewmen aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess showed the urgent need for the government to bring them home.

“The embassy is in close coordination with relevant Philippines and Japanese government agencies and representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Princess Cruises to help ensure that the needs of the Filipino crew and passengers are met and to facilitate their return to the Philippines,” the foreign office said in a statement. In particular, Princess Cruises own and operate the Diamond Princess where the COVID-19 cases climbed quickly to 333 although the estimated 3,000 passengers have been confined to their cabins during the 14-day quarantine set to end on Wednesday.

Earlier, Labour and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello told a radio interview that government was set to repatriate the Filipino crew after the 14-day quarantine period imposed while the luxury liner was docked off Japan.

But health officials served notice that even after their quarantine in Japan, the Filipino crewmen would undergo the same process when they are to arrive in the Philippines in a facility they have yet to determine.

This developed as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) based in Metro Manila confirmed that environmental samples from the Butuanon River in Mandaue City on the island province of Cebu in the Visayas has tested positive for polio virus. The confirmation coincided with an admission from the health department that a one-year-old boy has been confirmed to be the country’s 17th polio victim, which led Health Secretary Francisco Duque to warn that the disease remains a major threat in the country.

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