Philippines converts island into quarantine center for returning migrants 

Sibakel Island in Mindanao to become quarantine zone for returning Filipinos from Malaysia. (Photo courtesy Mindanao Western Command)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Philippines converts island into quarantine center for returning migrants 

  • Following the developments, the military proposed using Sibakel island as a quarantine area for the remaining 131 Filipinos who were stranded on the two vessels

MANILA: The Philippine military is in the process of converting an island in the Basilan province into a quarantine zone to temporarily house Filipinos returning from Malaysia due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Officials said on Monday that 70 percent of the work was complete.
Sibakel Island, an uninhabited area under the jurisdiction of the Lantawan municipality in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, is currently home for more than 100 Filipinos who returned from Sabah, Malaysia recently but were refused entry by local government units.
“They were part of the 413 Filipinos who arrived from Sabah on board two private vessels on March 17. However, other local government units denied them entry for fear that they might be infected by the coronavirus disease,” Major Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson for Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), told Arab News.
He added that a majority were not allowed entry in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and initially even in Basilan.
“Local officials in Basilan later agreed to allow 282 of the returnees to disembark since they are residents of the province,” Encinas said.
Following the developments, the military proposed using Sibakel island as a quarantine area for the remaining 131 Filipinos who were stranded on the two vessels.
“Under the presidential proclamation, we have to accept them, but they have to undergo quarantine procedures,” Westmincom Chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said. “We took the initiative to look for an island for quarantine purposes.”
To move ahead with the process, all 131 Filipinos were ferried to the island on March 20 where they will observe a 14-day quarantine before being allowed to return to their families.
The military, along with representatives from various government agencies, conducted an ocular inspection of the island on March 19 before declaring it appropriate for use as a quarantine area.

FASTFACT

Over 100 Filipinos will observe 14-day quarantine before returning home.

The entire process, Encinas said, involved setting up tents and other facilities for returnees, security personnel, and representatives from government agencies looking after those under quarantine. 
Before that, all 131 nationals were subjected to medical screening procedures on the island with officials saying that there were no infected patients on the island and that the returnees were being moved there as part of a mandatory quarantine measure.
“COVID-19 is an illness that starts with ‘I’. We have to change this ‘I’ to ‘We.’ We must continue to work together towards wellness in order to defeat this illness,” Sobejana said.
Once on the island, the returnees were provided with food packs, sleeping bags, hygiene kits, drinking water, movable tents and other essential commodities.
Sobejana said they are anticipating that the current number of returning Filipinos from Sabah and other parts of Malaysia will increase.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 82 new cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 462.  
 The DOH also reported eight additional deaths, increasing the number of fatalities from 25 to 33, with the department saying that 18 patients had recovered from the disease.
Earlier on Sunday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the number of coronavirus cases could rise further due to improved testing facilities in the laboratories.
The entire island of Luzon is currently under lockdown to avoid the spread of the virus, with other areas in Visayas and Mindanao also imposing community quarantine measures to limit the disease.


Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

Updated 5 min 2 sec ago

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

  • The 1884 painting, titled the ‘Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,’ was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam
  • The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million

THE HAGUE: Thieves stole a painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh early Monday in a daring heist from a museum that was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 1884 painting, titled the “Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,” was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam.
The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million ($6.6 million).
“I am shocked and unbelievably annoyed this theft has happened,” Jan Rudolph de Lorm, one of the museum’s directors, told a press conference.
“Art is there to be seen, to be enjoyed, to inspire and to bring solace, particularly in these troubled times in which we find ourselves,” De Lorm said.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th birthday of the brilliant yet troubled artist.
“Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring” comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as “Sunflowers” and his vivid self-portraits.
The painting was on loan from its owners, the Groninger Museum in the north of the Netherlands, as part of an exhibition.
The Singer Laren museum closed two weeks ago in compliance with Dutch government measures aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19.
Dutch police said the criminals had broken in at around 3:15 am (0115 GMT).
“Police officers immediately rushed to the scene but the perpetrators had escaped,” Dutch police said in a statement, appealing for witnesses.
The painting has an estimated value of between one million and six million euros, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand said.
“The hunt is on,” said Brand, who is known for recovering stolen Nazi art including “Hitler’s Horses.”
It was the third time the famous Dutch master’s works have been targeted in the Netherlands since the 1990s, Brand said.
“To me this looks like the work of a copycat,” Brand told AFP, adding the modus operandi was similar to the other two cases.
“The thieves only went for a Van Gogh, while there are other works too in the museum,” he said.
Asked whether he thought there was enough security at the museum Brand said “it is very difficult to say.”
“Securing a painting is very difficult. It is something that has to be displayed for people to see,” he said.
The museum’s 3,000 pieces also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.
Singer Laren was targeted in 2007 when thieves stole a number of castings from its gardens including “The Thinker,” Dutch media reports said. The castings were recovered two days later.
Two Van Gogh masterpieces went back on display at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum last year after they were stolen from the museum in 2002.
The paintings — the 1882 ” View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and the 1884/5 “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” — were recovered by Italian investigators in September 2016 when they raided a home belonging to an infamous mafia drug baron near Naples.
Previously three Van Goghs that were stolen from the Noordbrabants Museum in 1990 later resurfaced when a notorious Dutch criminal made a deal with prosecutors.