THE Philippines expects to repatriate starting next week about 500 Filipinos who are crew members of a novel coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked in Yokohama, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday

This is a week earlier than planned after Japanese authorities allowed the additional quarantine of Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers to be done in home countries, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Meñez told reporters in a group message.

Mr. Meñez said the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo was still confirming the number of Filipinos who have volunteered to come home.

DFA 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 discharged from the hospital

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. earlier ordered the repatriation after the passengers completed a two-week quarantine.

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. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas