THE country’s top diplomat has ordered the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo to facilitate the immediate return of about 500 Filipinos aboard a novel coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. ordered the repatriation after the passengers of Diamond Princess off Japan’s coast completed a two-week quarantine.

“It’s our duty to take care of our overseas Filipinos wherever they are,” he tweeted. “I want them home now.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement said one of the 41 Filipinos on the cruise ship who tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had been treated and was set to be discharged on Wednesday.

All of those who tested positive were crew members of the Carnival Corp.-operated cruise liner. They were confined in hospitals in Japan and were responding well to the treatment, it said.

“All Filipino crew and passengers who are cleared for disembarkation from the vessel will be assisted by the embassy and Princess Cruises, and will be repatriated back to the Philippines at the soonest possible time,” DFA said in a statement.

“Filipinos who are in hospital for treatment will be repatriated as soon as the hospitals grant them medical clearance,” it added.

The Filipinos must undergo another 14-day quarantine in the Philippines, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a briefing.

The ship had been kept in quarantine since Feb. 3 after a passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong, was found to have been infected with the virus that has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened about 74,000 more, mostly in China.

The Philippines earlier this month repatriated 30 Filipinos from Wuhan City in China, where the virus was first detected.

The repatriates were staying inside a sports complex in Tarlac for a two-week quarantine. — with CAT