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.
Manila’s national carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL) shall have its last Manila-Dubai-Manila services this weekend.
The foreigner had initially tested positive and was admitted to the Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai. Later he recovered and tested negative after which he was shifted to a private hospital where he succumbed late on Sunday.
Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Paul Raymund Cortes on Monday said: "All consular services which would include passport, authentication, visa, civil registry shall only be attended to after April 8, Wednesday."
One of the world's biggest long-haul airlines, Emirates looks to resume flights gradually in line with the lifting of travel and operational restrictions, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum said.
Instead, the court found Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping and sentenced him to seven years in prison. One of his lawyers, Khwaja Naveed, said he could go free unless the government chooses to challenge the court decision.
About half the country's roughly 110 million people are currently under quarantine — including millions in deep poverty, left jobless by tough restrictions on movement.