Cruise ship linked to Australia coronavirus infections sails into Manila

The Ruby Princess cruise ship, background, has been linked to 19 deaths in Australia and two in the United States. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 May 2020

Cruise ship linked to Australia coronavirus infections sails into Manila

  • The Ruby Princess has been linked to 19 deaths in Australia and two in the US

CAVITE, Philippines: A cruise ship being investigated in Australia for sparking coronavirus infections has sailed into Philippine waters to bring Filipino crew members home.
The Philippine coast guard said Thursday the Ruby Princess has arrived in Manila Bay, where at least 16 other cruise ships have converged while waiting for more than 5,000 Filipino crew members to be tested for the coronavirus before disembarking.
Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said 214 Filipino crew members on the Ruby Princess will be tested but may have to wait behind those from other ships.
The Ruby Princess has been linked to 19 deaths in Australia and two in the United States. The Australian investigation is trying to determine why 2,700 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19 before the test results of sick passengers were known.
Many passengers flew from Sydney overseas. Two died at home in the United States, including Los Angeles resident Chung Chen, whose family is suing Princess Cruises for more than $1 million in a lawsuit alleging it failed to alert passengers to the risk.
An initial batch of 300 Filipino crew left the ship last month and were taken to Sydney to catch a charter flight to Manila.
The cruise ships have been asked to wait in a Manila Bay anchorage area instead of docking in nearby ports as part of strict precautions against the virus. Medical and coast guard teams in protective suits travel by motorboats and carry out tests on board each anchored ship in a laborious effort before the Filipino crewmen can disembark for treatment in a hospital or to stay in further quarantine depending on the test results.
“The protocols are strict. Our teams get onboard, undertake swab tests then the crewmen wait for three days,” Balilo said by telephone. “If they test positive, we bring them to a hospital but if they’re OK, we release but they should still go into some days of isolation.”
More than 24,000 Filipino workers, including nearly 17,000 ship crew and personnel, have returned by air and sea after being displaced by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns worldwide. They have overwhelmed quarantine facilities in metropolitan Manila.
Philippine officials have stopped incoming international flights for a week starting May 3 in an effort to decongest the quarantine facilities in metropolitan Manila and prepare for the arrival of tens of thousands more returning Filipino workers in the coming weeks.
The Philippines is a major source of global labor and the huge income remitted by millions of workers have kept Manila’s economy afloat for decades and served as a lifeline for impoverished families.
Nearly 2,000 Filipinos have been infected by the coronavirus in 46 foreign countries and 215 have died, many of them workers, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila. A large number of Filipinos has faced layoffs due to business closures abroad and the government has struggled to bring many of them home.


France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

Updated 19 September 2020

France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

  • Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a ‘double standard’ by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members

JEDDAH: France on Friday backed Cyprus’ calls for the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Turkey if the Turkish government won’t suspend its search for energy reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive economic rights.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said sanctions should be among the options the 27-member bloc considers employing if Turkey continues to “endanger the security and sovereignty of a member state.”

“But we consider that the union should also be ready to use all the instruments at its disposal, among them one of sanctions, if the situation didn’t evolve positively,” Beaune said after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia.

A European Parliament resolution has called for sanctions against Turkey unless it showed “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in defusing tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now analyst at Carnegie Europe, said the resolution reflected the views of a democratically elected parliament from across the bloc. “This is not ‘country X against country Y,’ it is the aggregated view of the European Parliament,” he told Arab News.

EU leaders are set to hold a summit in a few days to discuss how to respond to Turkey prospecting in areas of the sea that Greece and Cyprus insist are only theirs to explore.

Turkey triggered a naval stand-off with NATO ally Greece after dispatching a warship-escorted research vessel in a part of the eastern Mediterranean that Greece says is over its continental shelf. Greece deployed its own warship and naval patrols in response.

Greek and Turkish military officers are also holding talks at NATO headquarters to work out ways of ensuring that any standoff at sea doesn’t descend into open conflict.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Turkey’s withdrawal of its survey ship and warship escorts was a positive step, but that Greece needs to make sure Ankara is sincere.

He said a list of sanctions will be put before EU leaders at next week’s summit and whether they’ll be implemented will depend on Turkey’s actions. “I’m hoping that it won’t become necessary to reach that point,” Dendias said.

Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a “double standard” by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud and police brutality while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members.

Meanwhile, the EU is set to announce sanctions on Monday against three companies from Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan which are accused of violating a UN arms embargo on Libya, diplomats told AFP.