Coronavirus: Americans from quarantined cruise ship flown from Japan

Coronavirus: Americans from quarantined cruise ship evacuate from Japan

Two planes carrying hundreds of US citizens from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship have left Japan, officials say.

There were some 400 Americans on board the Diamond Princess, which has been in quarantine since 3 February.

On Sunday, Japanese officials said the number of infections on the ship had risen by 70 to 355, making it the largest cluster of cases outside China.

Meanwhile, China reported a total of 2,048 new cases on Monday – 1,933 of which were from Hubei province.

More than 70,500 people nationwide have already been infected by the virus. In Hubei alone, the official number of cases currently stands at 58,182, with 1,692 deaths. Most new cases and deaths have been reported in Wuhan, Hubei’s largest city.

In other developments:

  • In Japan, a public gathering to celebrate the birthday of new Emperor Naruhito has been cancelled, due to concerns over the spread of the outbreak
  • In China, the National People’s Congress standing committee has said it will meet next week to discuss a delay of this year’s Congress because of the outbreak
  • At the weekend, an American woman tested positive for the virus after leaving a cruise liner docked off the coast of Cambodia.

What’s happening to the US ship?

The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in Japan’s port of Yokohama with some 3,700 people on board after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.

At least 40 US citizens who were on board are infected and will be treated in Japan, Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Face the Nation on CBS.

Two aircraft chartered by the US government left Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in the early hours of Monday.

More than 300 passengers are being repatriated voluntarily, the US state department said. Fourteen of them tested positive for the virus and were being kept separate from the other passengers, it said.

Those entering the US will undergo a 14-day quarantine, on top of the time they have already spent confined on the ship.

“And the reason for that,” Dr Fauci added, “is that the degree of transmissibility, on that cruise ship, is essentially akin to being in a hotspot.”

Some of the Americans have declined to be evacuated, preferring to wait until the ship quarantine comes to an end on 19 February.

Passenger Matt Smith, a lawyer, said he would not want to travel on a bus to the plane with possibly infected people.

To assist with relief efforts, Japan’s government has given away 2,000 iPhones to passengers on the ship – one for each cabin.

The smartphones were distributed so people could use an app, created by Japan’s health ministry, which links users with doctors, pharmacists and mental health counselors. Phones registered outside of Japan are unable to access the app.

Other evacuation flights have been arranged to repatriate residents of Israel, Hong Kong and Canada. On Monday, Australia announced that it would evacuate 200 of its citizens too.

Meanwhile, a plane carrying 175 evacuated Nepalis, mostly students, has arrived in Kathmandu from Wuhan.

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