Yokohama: Forty Americans are among hundreds infected with Covid-19 on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan, a US official said, after other Americans on board left for chartered flights home.
The evacuation coincided with warnings from Japanese authorities over the deadly outbreak, urging citizens to avoid crowds and “non-essential gatherings.”
The Diamond Princess was placed in a 14-day quarantine in early February after a former passenger tested positive for COVID-19 virus.
But US authorities announced on Sunday they would offer US passengers the option to leave the ship and fly home, where they will face another 14-day isolation period.
Several other governments also have announced plans to remove their citizens from the ship.
More than three dozen Americans are not going home, however, said Anthony Fauci, a senior official at the National Institutes for Health.
“Forty of them have gotten infected. They’re going to be in hospitals in Japan, ” Fauci said.
It was not immediately clear whether the 40 Americans were among the figure of 355 people from the ship which Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato earlier Sunday said were infected.
He said that 1,219 people on the vessel had been tested.
Late Sunday and into the early hours of yesterday, Americans who opted to leave were brought off the ship in groups.
They passed through a makeshift passport control but underwent no health checks, said American passenger Sarah Arana.
They boarded buses driven by personnel in head-to-toe protective suits and were told that the more than a dozen vehicles would travel in a convoy.
“I am happy and ready to go, ” said Arana before leaving the ship.
“We need a proper quarantine. This was not it.”
The US government should have intervened “much sooner, at the beginning, ” the 52-year-old medical social worker said.
“This was too much for Japan, and they shouldn’t have had to bear the burden, ” she added.
Other Americans on board declined the evacuation, despite being warned they will still have to wait two weeks and test negative for the virus before being allowed back to the United States. — AFP
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