MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine military said Sunday that 108 of its peacekeepers have tested negative for Ebola in Liberia, but that they will still be shipped to a small island in Manila Bay when they fly home this week for 21 more days of quarantine.
Col. Roberto Ancan, who heads the Philippine military’s peacekeeping operations center, said the air force personnel were cleared of Ebola in a U.N. medical screening test after 21 days of pre-departure quarantine in Liberia. Four other Filipino peacekeepers will be left behind in Liberia to supervise the shipment to Manila of equipment used by the Philippine contingent. The four also will be subjected to the 21-day isolation period in Liberia and in Manila, Ancan said.
The Philippines has decided to halt the deployment of its troops to the West African nation amid the deadly Ebola outbreak there, ending more than a decade of peacekeeping work under the United Nations.
Ancan said a navy boat would transport the peacekeepers to Caballo Island at the mouth of Manila Bay when they arrive Tuesday. Most of the peacekeepers had been posted in Liberia for nearly a year.
While Filipino peacekeeping contingents have been welcomed home with handshakes and fanfare by the military’s top brass in the past, the air force personnel from Liberia will be advised to avoid physical contact even with their families until they have completed the quarantine, Ancan said.
“As much as we want to, there will be no handshakes,” he said.
The Philippines, considered vulnerable to Ebola because of the millions of Filipinos who work abroad, has taken steps to prevent infections and has readied medical facilities and trained personnel to deal with potential Ebola cases.