MANILA: Philippine authorities are providing emergency assistance to 12 members of an all-Filipino-crewed container ship who tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after making a two-day port stop in India.
According to a report by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Panamanian-flagged MV Athens Bridge departed from India on April 22 and arrived in Haiphong, Vietnam on May 1 where the ship’s crew took a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test.
The results showed that of the 21 crewmen, 12 were positive for the virus prompting Vietnamese authorities to refuse them entry.
The ship then sailed to Manila to seek refuge despite an existing travel ban being in place in the Philippines. After arriving in the capital on Thursday, two of the seafarers were evacuated to a hospital, both in a critical condition.
The rest of the crew have remained onboard the vessel off Sangley Point in Cavite but will be moved to a quarantine facility.
The exception was granted to the MV Athens Bridge by the country’s Department of Health after an emergency meeting with the Bureau of Quarantine, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Department of Transportation.
Filipino Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said: “Considering the growing concern of this recent variant first detected in India, we were made aware that the vessel had travel history to the country.
“But in deciding our action steps, our guiding principle was that those were our hardworking countrymen aboard and we would never leave any Filipino behind.”
He pointed out that the rescue operation had been carried out in accordance with strict health protocols on handling COVID-19 cases.
“We recognize the risk that this act of compassion brings, but we assure Filipinos that we complied with the protocols in handling COVID-19 patients and have coordinated with other government agencies to deliver urgent assistance to our countrymen. We also thank everyone who assisted the crew of MV Athens Bridge,” Duque added.