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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 over 5,000 Filipino crew members to be tested for the new coronavirus before disembarking.
Coast guard spokesperson 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 over 1 million U.S. dollars 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.
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.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.
But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by those with mild or no visible symptoms.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and could lead to death.
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