6 Filipinos infected with coronavirus on cruise ship in U.S.

MANILA, Philippines – At least 6 Filipinos onboard a luxury cruise ship now docked in Oakland, California, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a Department of Health (DOH) official said on Tuesday, March 10.

Joel Buenaventura, chief health program officer of the DOH's Migrant Health Unit, confirmed this development in a House of Representatives committee hearing.

Buenaventura said the confirmation was based on a report from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is not yet clear if the 6 infected Filipinos are all crew members, or if some are passengers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said there are 518 Filipino crew members aboard the Grand Princess, while there was no confirmation yet if there are Filipino passengers.

What happened to the cruise ship? The Grand Princess, carrying some 3,533 passengers and crew, had been stranded off the coast of San Francisco since Wednesday, March 4, after two people who had been on the ship during its previous voyage contracted the virus. One later died.

Health authorities sounded the alarm after several passengers who were on the Grand Princess' earlier voyage and remained on the cruise ship for its next stop to Hawaii developed flu-like symptoms.

The United States started testing people onboard the ship last Thursday, March 5, with passengers confined to their cabins to help quell the spread of the virus.

US Vice President Mike Pence earlier announced that as of Saturday, March 7, 21 people out of the 45 tested were found to have the coronavirus disease called COVID-19. They consisted of 19 crew members and 2 American passengers.

The ship finally docked at the port in Oakland on Monday, March 9, and the first passengers started disembarking.

The Grand Princess is operated by Princess Cruises, the same company that runs the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in the port of Yokohama, Japan, last February.

The company as well as Japanese health authorities were widely criticized for their handling of cases after more than 700 people, including 80 Filipino crew members, tested positive for COVID-19. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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