EIGHT more Filipinos tested positive for the new coronavirus strain inside a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, bringing the total infected Filipinos to 35, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“The Filipinos who tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) were immediately transferred to Japanese hospitals and are now undergoing treatment,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China reached at least 1,868 with 93 more deaths in Hubei and five more in other parts of the country, according to Al Jazeera News.

Chinese state television also reported that Liu Zhiming, director of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital, died yesterday, becoming one of the latest fatalities of the epidemic.

The government also reported an additional 1,886 new infections across the country, but mostly from Hubei, bringing the nationwide total to at least 72,436, it said.

The Japanese government was expected to announce on Tuesday the disembarkation procedures for the Diamond Princess cruise ship as the quarantine period ends on Feb. 19, DFA said.

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo was coordinating with agencies of both governments and the cruise management for the repatriation of Filipinos aboard the ship.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Meñez said the repatriation details were still being discussed by a local inter-agency task force. Repatriation would be voluntary, he added.

Meanwhile, a Filipina has become the first domestic helper to contract the coronavirus in Hong Kong, and the Chinese-ruled city’s 61st case overall, health authorities said on Tuesday.

There are more than 180,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, many working as helpers, according to the Philippine Labor department. The helper, who worked for one of the previous confirmed coronavirus cases, spent an hour out with more than 10 friends whom the health department was contacting, the head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, Chuang Shuk-kwan, said.

Also yesterday, Senator Ralph G. Recto supported the IATF’s decision to partially lift the travel ban on China’s special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau.

“This will save the jobs of thousands of FIlipinos who were vacationing in their home country when their government imposed a travel ban,” he said in a statement.

“The lifting of the ban, in effect, rescues these stranded workers from unemployment and their families from penury.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan with Reuters