By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
Two passenger vessels that will be converted into temporary quarantine facilities will be operational by next week to cater to returning seafarers and other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), in partnership with 2GO shipping, aims to serve around 1,500 patients.
As part of safety protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus, the capacity of each ship will be limited in order to observe proper physical distancing.
The ships will also be subjected to inspection by the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure their compliance with other health requirements.
“We must always be prepared to face worst-case scenarios. Most hospitals in Metro Manila have already pleaded for help in attending to COVID-19 patients. Some of them can no longer accept more patients due to overcapacity. And that is what we are trying to address here. We will deploy these ‘quarantine ships’ to help our hospitals, our healthworkers, and our countrymen,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
Last March 30, the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) gave the
DOTr and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) the green light to implement the operation of ships as temporary facilities for persons under monitoring or those who have traveled to COVID-19 affected areas, and those who show symptoms but have no history of exposure.
The project, which will be implemented in close coordination with the DOH and Bureau of Quarantine, is also expected to unburden hospitals that are currently operating at their full capacity.
In addition, the PCG is tasked to ensure that there will be unhampered and orderly operations of quarantine ships, effective delivery of onboard health care, subject to standard environment controls, hygiene protocols, and that maritime safety and security regulations are observed.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Ports Authority will provide support to ensure smooth administrative and logistics operations.
DOTr OIC Undersecretary for Administrative Service and IATF official representative Artemio Tuazon Jr. said that various shipping companies have already expressed their intention to join the project.
“The DOTr has been continuously reaching out to various shipping companies to seek their support for the project. A lot of them have already signified their intent to make use of their ships as floating quarantine facilities. We are grateful that more of them are expressing their willingness to cooperate with government during this very critical situation,” he said.