Filipinos evacuated from virus-hit Japan ship back in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — A total of 445 Filipinos from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan were brought home to the Philippines.

The first batch of Filipino evacuees arrived Tuesday via Philippine Airlines (PAL) chartered flight at the Haribon Hangar of the Clark Air Base in Pampanga at 10:10pm. There were 309 Filipinos onboard the first flight, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed.

Meanwhile, the second PAL flight carrying 136 evacuees landed at 12:12am, which brings the total number of evacuees to 445.

The Filipinos, composed mostly of crew members of Diamond Princess, disembarked the quarantined ship Tuesday afternoon. They were transported from the Yokohama Port, where the cruise ship has been docked for weeks, to the Haneda Airport.

The repatriation does not include 70 Filipinos who have fallen ill to the coronavirus disease officially known as COVID-19.

In total, 80 Filipinos who were on board the Diamond Princess tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs. Ten of them have recovered and given a clean bill of health, making them eligible for repatriation, the DFA said.

The evacuees will again be tested for flu-like syptoms before landing at Clark. Those who manifest signs of respiratory illness will be isolated in one area in the aircraft and will be taken to a government-identified hospital for treatment.

The remaining evacuees will all be placed under a 14-day quarantine at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, as part of government policy. The medical and response teams, crew members, and other personnel who accompanied the Filipinos from Japan will also be quarantined.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 2,700 people worldwide, mostly in China, since the outbreak began in Wuhan City, Hubei province on December 2019.

In the Philippines, three Chinese nationals -- all from Wuhan -- have been infected with the virus. One of them died, while the remaining two have since recovered and left the country.

In the search for people who have had contact with the three confirmed cases, a total of 516 individuals have tested negative for the virus, while the government awaits 44 more lab results.