No disembarking yet as vessel from Indonesia anchors in Albay; govt to check for variant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 20) — The towing vessel and barge carrying COVID-infected Filipino seafarers from Indonesia have anchored in Albay on Tuesday morning, but its crew members cannot disembark yet.

M/V Tug Clyde and Barge Claudia have anchored one kilometer from the Lidong Port in Sto. Domingo in Albay.

Mayor Joseling Aguas said the vessels were not allowed to dock on the shore.

Twelve of the 20 crew members have tested positive for COVID-19, but one disembarked in Butuan City prior to receiving his test result, leaving 11 asymptomatic COVID-positive individuals on board.

The Coast Guard assured that the patients and close contacts cannot disembark and nearby vessels cannot move close to them.

"Sinisiguro ng maritime security and monitoring team ng Philippine Coast Guard Station Albay na walang makakalapit na sasakyang pandagat dito at walang makakababa na crew, para makontrol ang pagkalat ng nakakahawang virus," it said.

[Translation: The maritime security and monitoring team of the Philippine Coast Guard in Albay assures no vessel can come close to them and its crew cannot alight to control the spread of the virus.]

The PCG and local officials are still finalizing protocols for their disembarkation to make sure Albay residents are not put on risk.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the samples of the 11 infected crew members will be sent for whole genome sequencing to check if they are carrying more transmissible variants since they came from Indonesia, a country currently being hit by the Delta coronavirus variant.

"Definitely. They're coming from a high-risk country. When they came here, they were swabbed," she said when asked if the samples will be reviewed by the Philippine Genome Center.

Indonesia is being ravaged by the dreaded Delta variant, which is believed to be the most transmissible variant and associated with increased hospitalization.

Health experts are worried about the Philippines' ability to deal with a similar surge.

There are to date 35 Delta variant cases recorded in the Philippines, including three deaths and seven active locally acquired cases.

The country's first Delta cases came from four Filipino seafarers on board MV Athens Bridge, which travelled from India when it was hit with the feared variant.