OVER 500 Filipinos are onboard the MV Grand Princess, a cruise ship being held off the California coast due to possible coronavirus cases, the Philippine Department of Health confirmed on Thursday, March 5.
The California Air National Guard dropped off kits by helicopter to test the ship’s passengers and crew for coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
“They are doing the test. I just don’t know if they will test all or just the symptomatic,” Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said, adding that results of the laboratory tests before the DOH can decide how to assist the Filipino crew members.
MV Grand Princess, which was on a two-week trip from San Francisco to Hawaii and scheduled to return on Saturday, was diverted toward San Francisco on Wednesday after it was announced that an unidentified 71-year-old man previously onboard the ship died from coronavirus.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said 11 passengers and 10 crew members are reportedly exhibiting symptoms of the disease. Sixty-two people on the current cruise were said to be on the ship with the 71-year-old man during the previous trip to Mexico.
There are 3,533 people currently onboard the ship — 2,422 of whom are guests and 1,111 teammates. They represent 54 nationalities, according to Princess Cruises.
Forty-five individuals were tested on Thursday and the following day, results from 21 people came back positive.
In the meantime, “all guests have been asked to stay in their staterooms while test results are pending,” the company said.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs also confirmed the presence of around 530 to 540 Filipinos onboard the cruise ship.
“We confirm that there are Filipino crew members on board the MV Grand Princess, and in similar number as the Diamond Princess of around 530 [to] 540 Filipino crew out of 1,111 total crew,” said Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez
Duque assured that the Philippine government will likely adopt a similar procedure to one implemented when the Diamond Princess ship returned after being quarantined in Yokohama, Japan should the Filipino crew members be repatriated from California, and will place them under a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
“Again, we will do the same cycle, same as the repatriates from the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama. Hopefully, we will learn a lesson from what happened in the Diamond Princess,” he said.
Duque suggested bringing those on board the Grand Princess to a facility instead of putting them under quarantine on the cruise ship. He also said he would intervene if Filipinos would be at risk.
“The extent of the intervention I still cannot say, except to tell them what not to do as what happened in the Diamond Princess. We still don’t have a clear picture of the situation,” Duque said.