Coronavirus cases continue to escalate, and 14 new cases were today reported among passengers of a doomed cruise ship moored in Japan. The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in Japan’s port of Yokohama for two weeks, with 3,700 passengers and crew on board. The ship was held at the port following the discovery of a man – who disembarked in Hong Kong – was found to have the virus.
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The Diamond Princess ship is reported to have the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside China.
The new cases are 14 American tourists whose test results came in while they were being evacuated from the ship.
Two US government-chartered planes carrying American citizens from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess left Japan in the early hours of this morning.
The aircraft is reported to have departed Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
The 14 cruise passengers were found to have coronavirus shortly before they boarded their chartered flight back to the USA.
The group were then placed in segregated areas on the plane and were isolated and monitored.
American officials initially said that infected people would not be allowed to board the evacuation flights, but this decision appears to have been reversed, reported The New York Times.
“During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, U.S. officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19,” the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
Before the evacuation, the 14 Americans had been found to be asymptomatic and “fit to fly”, according to the statement.
Another evacuation flight landed this morning at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.
All the passengers will be placed in quarantine for 14 days.
Those who test positive or develop symptoms will be sent to “an appropriate location for continued isolation and care,” the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services statement added.
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Currently, the USA has 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus – a number that will nearly double when the 14 new cases arrive on US soil.
Not all the Americans onboard the Diamond Princess chose to be evacuated.
Some of the Americans have declined the offer, choosing to wait until the ship quarantine comes to an end on February 19.
Passenger Matt Smith, a lawyer, tweeted his reasons for remaining on the ship, saying he would not want to travel on a bus to the plane with possibly infected people.
He wrote: “We would like to just finish the quarantine on the ship as planned, decompress in a non-quarantine environment in Japan for a few days, then fly back to the U.S. pursuant to our own arrangements. What’s wrong with that?”
Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy have already announced flights home for their citizens and residents.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has banned those quarantined on the cruise from entry for a further two weeks.
In this morning’s press conference, he announced: “Any person who was onboard that ship, regardless of their nationality, if they seek to enter Australia within the next 14 days, they will not be granted entry to Australia.”
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