Americans from quarantined cruise ship in Japan flown home


Washington, Feb 17 (IANS): Over 300 US citizens aboard a coronavirus-hit cruise ship, quarantined in Japan's Yokohoma port, were flown home on Monday, reports said.

The flights took off from Tokyo's Haneda Airport early on Monday, and one plane has landed at a US Air Force air base in California, and the other plane was due to land in Texas, the BBC reported.

All the over 300 passengers will undergo 14-days quarantine, apart from the time they have spent on aboard, it quoted US officials as saying.

There were some 400 Americans among the 3,700 passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess, which has been in quarantine since February 3. The action came after a male passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.

At least 40 US citizens aboard found to be infected will be treated in Japan, US officials said.

"They are not going to go anywhere. They're going to be in hospitals in Japan," Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS news.

"The reason for that is the degree of transmissibility on that cruise ship is essentially akin to being in a hot spot," he said.

Also 14 of the repatriated Americans were reported during transit to have tested positive for the virus and were being kept separate from other passengers, officials said.

Japanese officials on Monday said there were 99 new cases of infections on board, including a Russian woman, bringing the total to 454 confirmed cases - the largest cluster of cases outside China.

Japanese authorities had decided to keep the ship isolated until this Wednesday as a preventive measure, although last week they allowed older passengers with health complications to leave, provided they tested negative for the virus.

All of them are in public facilities in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, where they are in quarantine, while 355 people infected with Coronavirus have been transferred to medical centres.

Meanwhile, the Philippines announced Monday that it will repatriate 531 crew members and seven Filipino passengers from the ship. As many as 27 Filipino crew members on board have tested positive for COVID-19.

Other countries such as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, Israel and Taiwan are preparing for the evacuation of their citizens aboard the ship, where there are people of about 50 nationalities, according to the Japanese state broadcaster NHK.

A total of 138 Indians, including 132 crew and 6 passengers, are among the 3,711 people on board the Diamond Princess. A total of five Indians on board have tested positive to the virus.

In Japan, a public gathering to celebrate the birthday of new Emperor Naruhito later this week has been cancelled, due to concerns over the spread of the virus, while organisers of the Tokyo marathon due to take place on March 1 have cancelled the amateur part of the race.

Meanwhile, China reported a total of 2,048 new cases on Monday, a bulk of which -- 1,933 -- were from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

More than 70,500 people across China have been infected by the virus. In Hubei alone, the official number of cases stands at 58,182, with 1,692 deaths. Most new cases and deaths have been reported in its Wuhan city.

  

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