The U.S. will evacuate its citizens from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Japan, according to a statement on the American embassy in Japan’s website.
The State Department will provide chartered aircraft to bring American passengers and crew back to the U.S. The ship is the largest infection cluster outside China. An additional 67 cases have been found on board, Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said in televised comments.
The plane will arrive on the evening of Feb. 16 and will transport the passengers first to Travis Air Force Base in California, and some may be moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They will undergo a two-week quarantine.
Some 3,500 people are being kept in quarantine on Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess. The latest cases bring the total infections on the ship to almost 300, fueling concerns that rather than keeping passengers safe, the quarantine is allowing the virus to spread.
Rebecca Frasure and her husband Kent, from Forest Grove, Oregon, won’t be on the evacuation flight. She tested positive for coronavirus and was taken to a Tokyo hospital on Feb. 7. Even though her symptoms of a mild cough, stuffy nose and light fever are gone, recent tests show the virus is still in her system. The couple decided both would stay behind.
“They need to make some effort to evacuate the people who have been in the hospital,” said Rebecca Frasure, 35. “There’s a way to keep people separated. I’ll wear a hazmat suit, masks and gloves — whatever it takes.”
The virus has killed more than 1,500 people since emerging in China’s Hubei province in December. France’s health ministry reported the death of an 80-year-old Chinese tourist in Paris today, the first fatality outside Asia.
Japan has been preparing to allow certain passengers to start disembarking the ship, Health Minister Kato told reporters Friday. About 40 people in Japan now have the virus, with local authorities in the western prefecture of Wakayama announcing three more on Saturday.
Japan said in a statement it’s coordinating with the U.S. over the evacuation and ‘appreciates such measures’
NHK reported Saturday that eight more cases have been confirmed in Tokyo, without saying where it obtained the information.
Japan said in a statement it’s coordinating with the U.S. over the evacuation and “appreciates such measures,” which will help mitigate its burden regarding the medical response to passengers on the ship.
Dow Jones reported the evacuation earlier, citing an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are about 380 Americans on board the cruise ship, according to the report.
“We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can,” the embassy said in the notice on its website.
The Frasures worry how they will ever return home. Kent Frasure said the embassy note said that Americans who decide not to evacuate may not be allowed back until the CDC decides they can enter the country.
“It was very ominous,” he said. “We need some answers on how we can get home.”