Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. (Photo from Presidential Communications Facebook page)

MANILA — The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) will discuss the condition of Filipinos aboard a cruise ship cordoned off in Japan, as well as Taiwan’s appeal to lift the travel ban on its citizens visiting the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Friday.

Duque said the IATF on Covid-19 would meet on Friday afternoon to assess the possible repatriation of more than 500 Filipinos aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan.

“I would like to know the private sector’s role in this because if there is an agency or there is an entity that should take care of them, I would like to propose that the responsibility, should quarantine be required, be shared with that private entity,” he said in a Laging Handa press briefing.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that as of Thursday, the number of Filipinos aboard Diamond Princess who have tested positive for Covid-2019 has climbed to 11, all crew members of the vessel.

They are currently confined in various hospitals in Tokyo and are “responding well to treatment,” the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo reported.

The Philippine government, in coordination with Japanese authorities, has sent toiletries and nonmedical supplies to the 11 Covid-19 patients and the 527 other Filipinos on the cruise ship.

Meanwhile, Duque said the IATF on Covid-19 would also take into consideration Taiwan’s call for the Philippines’ lifting of the temporary travel ban.

He said they are aware of Taiwan’s sentiments vis-à-vis the travel ban.

“All of these will be considered in our deliberations. And hopefully, we will come up with the consensus not just to address specifically the issue on Taiwan having been included in the travel ban,” Duque said.

The Department of Health on Monday said Taiwan has been included in the travel ban earlier imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte on mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Taiwan is considered by many as part of China under the “One China” policy.

Malacañang, however, already denied that Tapei’s inclusion in the travel ban has something to do with the “One China” policy.

Duque said the reason for imposing a travel ban on travelers from Taiwan is to ensure Filipinos’ safety from the coronavirus.

“The reason that has been considered in including Taiwan in the travel ban is really nothing else than public health and safety. That is the only consideration,” he said. (PNA)