Thursday, May 23, 2024

US to evacuate Americans as virus cases rise on quarantined ship

Americans will be removed from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan and flown home, the US embassy said Saturday as dozens more cases of the new coronavirus were diagnosed on board.

At least 285 people on the Diamond Princess have contracted the illness but hundreds of passengers and crew have not yet been tested as they wait in a quarantine that was scheduled to end February 19.

In a message to Americans, the embassy said the US government “recommends, out of an abundance of caution, that US citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring”.

It warned that those who return will have to undergo another 14 days of quarantine when they arrive in the United States.

A chartered flight will arrive in Japan on Sunday, but it was not immediately clear when it would leave. The letter said the flight will land at Travis Air Force Base in California, with some passengers continuing to a second air base in Texas.


Japanese public broadcaster NHK said 400 Americans were on board the cruise ship and the plane will leave Tokyo’s Haneda airport as soon as early Monday.

“Passengers will be screened for symptoms and we are working with our Japanese partners to ensure that any symptomatic passengers receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight,” the message said.

“Should you choose not to return on this charter flight, you will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time,” it warned.

While some Americans on the ship have urged their government to extract them from the boat, others on board criticised the plan.

“Incredibly disappointed that the U.S. Government has decided to throw a monkey wrench into the quarantine we have maintained here on board the Diamond Princess,” tweeted Matt Smith, an American lawyer.

“The U.S. Government… wants to take us off without testing, fly us back to the U.S. with a bunch of other untested people, and then stick us in 2 more weeks of quarantine? How does that make any sense at all?”

Quarantine timeline in doubt
There were more than 3,700 people on the ship when it arrived off the Japanese coast in early February. It was placed into quarantine after a passenger who got off the boat in Hong Kong tested positive for the newly named COVID-19.

Those diagnosed on board have been removed to local hospital, with people remaining on the ship told that their quarantine would be over on February 19, two weeks from when it officially began.

But a message broadcast on the ship by the captain on Saturday night cast doubt on that timeline.


“The Japanese government has informed us that they may start a new testing process for guests beginning February 18,” the message said, warning that it would take several days to complete and results would not be available for around three days.

“So guests who are tested on February 18 and have negative test results may be able to disembark beginning February 21,” the message said.

Those who had close contact with anyone who tested positive would have to restart their quarantine from the date of their last close contact, he added.

And crew on board will go into a new quarantine period once the passengers have left the ship, though details of how long that would last were not immediately clear, the broadcast said.

Japan’s government has begun allowing elderly passengers on the ship with poor health to leave and finish their quarantine on land.

Those on board have been mostly confined to their cabins and required to wear masks and keep their distance from others during brief outings on deck.

Excluding the cases on the ship, and an infected quarantine officer, Japanese authorities have so far diagnosed at least 40 people with the virus, which has killed more than 1,500 and infected at least 66,000 in China.

Signature TV
Signature TV
Signature TV is a multi-media company, owners and operators of and producers of The Signature Show on AIT and Corruption Tori. Our programmes are broadcast on the AIT Network and on Seven NTA stations across the country. We are content providers for a number of television networks and some State TV stations, with a respected 24/7, high online and offline followership. We are also Communications/Media Consultants to MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation and OSIWA.

Related Articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here
Captcha verification failed!
CAPTCHA user score failed. Please contact us!

Latest Articles