Return delayed

February 22, 2020
Relatives of Filipino crew members stranded on board the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship, moored off Japan's coast, walk outside a building after meeting with a local employment agency for seafarers in Manila Saturday. AFP / Basilio H SEPE

THEIR families will have to wait a little longer for their return.

The Filipinos aboard virus-stricken Diamond Princess Cruise cannot be repatriated as earlier scheduled because they have to complete laboratory tests and there are quarantine protocols that have to be complied with, the Department of Health said yesterday, adding the Filipinos will be returning home “early next week.”

The cruise ship has been docked at Yokohoma in Japan since it was quarantined due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Concern for the health and safety of some 400 Filipino crew members on the cruise ship led to the decision to postpone the repatriation which was originally scheduled today.

“IATF-EID (The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease) is adjusting the schedule out of an abundance of caution with a view to safeguarding the health and safety of our OFs (overseas Filipinos) onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” the DOH said in a statement.

“This is to allow the Japanese health authorities to complete the laboratory testing of the 400-plus Filipino crew members aboard the ship and comply with the established Japanese quarantine protocols,” it said.

More than 600 ship passengers of various nationalities have been confirmed to have contracted the disease, authorities earlier said. As of Friday, the DOH said the number of Filipinos infected on board the cruise ship had risen to 52.