Manila, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- The Philippines, a country with a large number of people working at sea, has begun the repatriation of some 4,000 crew members and sailors stranded in different parts of the world because of travel restrictions following the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Wednesday, 881 Filipinos arrived at Manila’s international airport from the United States. They will not be put under a 14 day quarantine before they resume their daily life, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
This group of crewmen belong to cruise ships such as Dawn and Encore, Norwegian Cruises, MV Magica and MV Favolosa, who were stuck at the US coasts.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Eduardo Mendez told EFE that between Wednesday evening and the following morning, “several hundreds” of Philippine crew members would arrive, without specifying the location.
Although the majority of those brought back are cruise ship workers, Mendez did not rule out bringing those working on merchant ships and fishing vessels.
“We are still making the arrangements to know how many filipino seafarers want to return home,” Mendez added.
Philippine foreign secretary Teodore Locsin on Saturday wrote on Twitter that the Philippines would repatriate some 4,000 seafarers and crew members in the coming weeks who have been left jobless due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government is in discussions with Manila’s hotels – which remain closed – to use them as quarantine centers for repatriated sailors.
The first batch of 530 crew members of the MV Costa Luminosa – with 36 COVID-19 positive cases – MV Grandiosa and MV Opera reached Manila from Italy.
According to the country’s seafarers union, out of the 1.2 million seafarers in the world, more than 380,000 are from the Philippines, making it the country with the highest number of workers in the sector and making them an important source of foreign currency for the nation.
The Philippines has confirmed 2,084 positive COVID-19 cases and 88 deaths, although these figures do not include those who contracted infection abroad while working as crew on cruise ships. EFE-EPA