Fourteen US citizens evacuated from Japan’s quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have been diagnosed with the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus.
The Americans were flown to US military bases on two charter flights yesterday despite doctors making the discovery on passengers’ way to the airport.
A total of 3,500 passengers have been marooned aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship for X weeks since the coronavirus began to spread. So far 454 people on board have tested positive for the virus.
Passengers were tested for the coronavirus two to three days before disembarking the ship. But the diagnoses arrived while the 380 Americans were en route to the airport, when 14 tested positive for Covid-19 despite being declared “fit to fly”.
Those who tested positive for the virus before leaving the cruise ship were told they would not be able to fly home. But the US made exceptions for passengers already heading to the airport.
The US State Department said:
After consultation with Health and Human Services (HHS) officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process.
Flight officials moved those who had tested positive to the back of the plane in an isolation area. They were not displaying symptoms, it is reported.
The infected passengers must spend two weeks in quarantine at a military base after landing back in the US. Other passengers were “closely monitored” during the return flights, the US State Department added, and will also face a 14-day quarantine.
“Any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated,” officials said.
The US evacuation comes ahead of similar repatriations planned by Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy.
But 74 Brits are still trapped aboard the Diamond Princess. They have accused the UK government of “forgetting” about them.
Brit David Abel, one of the passengers still on board, told Sky News: “Every country except the UK has become involved, and that is really wonderful for the people on board the ship.
“It feels that we’ve been forgotten. That you don’t really care about us, and that you’re actually not wanting us to come home.”