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Filipino seafarers test positive for coronavirus in China

The 29 seafarers were initially tested negative in the Philippines before their departure to China, according to local media. They subsequently tested positive for coronavirus after their arrival in China and prior to boarding ships at Chinese ports

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, which claims the seafarers had tested negative before their departure, said Chinese officials had expressed concern over the integrity of the initial results

BEIJING is raising questions over the integrity of coronavirus testing of seafarers after 29 Philippines crew reportedly tested positive after arriving in China.

Bernard Olalia, the administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, said he was informed of the incidents by the Chinese Embassy in Manila, according to local media reports.

Mr Olalia was cited as saying the seafarers had tested negative in the Philippines before their departure.

He said Chinese officials had expressed concern over the integrity of the initial results.  

“I assured them there is no issue over integrity because the testing facilities accredited by the Department of Health don’t fabricate results,” he said.

According to reports, the affected crew members were planning to board vessels at Chinese ports.

No detail was given about the arrival dates and names of the vessels to be embarked.

The POEA has been contacted for comments.

Ship management sources in China suggested the number of involved seafarers announced by POEA might be accumulated results over the past few months.

More than 20 imported cases in relation to Philippine crew have been reported at various Chinese ports since the middle of this year.

The cases were followed by new rules announced by the Chinese government in September, which requested onboard crew who signed on at an overseas port must test negative before their vessels arrive in China. And the test sites must be either appointed or approved by China’s overseas embassies or consulates.

Meanwhile, China recently reopened 10 domestic ports for foreign crew repatriations, with two ships already allowed to carry out such operations at Shanghai and Qingdao.

But details regarding the signing-on of non-Chinese crew were missing from Beijing’s policy guidance.

According to the rules, the qualified crew members must come from a vessel which has sailed for at least 14 days since it left the last overseas departure port and must have negative test results from Chinese customs authorities before being allowed to disembark at a designated port.

Mr Olalia said he had asked the manning agency which hired the 29 seafarers to give an explanation for the difference in the test results.

Earlier this week two different vessels arrived in ports in Western Australia with coronavirus-infected seafarers from the Philippines on board.

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