Tokyo, Feb 17 (IANS) Two US government chartered planes carrying hundreds of US citizens who were aboard a quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama departed Japan on Monday.
The evacuees left on two charter flights that departed from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, the US embassy in Japan said in a statement, reported Efe news.
The US passengers from Diamond Princess were transported from Yokohama port in Self-Defence Forces buses.
In addition, more than 40 of around 400 US citizens, who were on the Diamond Princess tested positive for the new coronavirus and will be hospitalised in Japan, according to a US health official.
“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.
The repatriated evacuees will be subjected to 14-day quarantine measures upon their arrival at military bases in the US to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus that has affected 355 people of the 3,700 aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Diamond Princess was quarantined on February 3 after it was discovered that a Hong Kong citizen, who disembarked in his city and had travelled on the ship, was infected with COVID-19.
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 the coronavirus on board 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.
Twenty-seven Filipino crew members on board have tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
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 ship, Diamond Princess. A total of five Indians on board have tested positive to the virus.