United States officials have confirmed that 14 Americans on an evacuation flight from a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, in Japan had contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
During the flight, all passengers were monitored and those who seemed to be showing symptoms or had contracted the virus were isolated in a designated area on the plane.
“Any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated,” according to a joint statement from the US Departments of State and Health and Human Services.
This adds to the 46 Americans on board the Diamond Princess who had already been tested positive with the coronavirus prior to the evacuation. The 46 Americans were not allowed to fly back home and have been quarantined in a hospital in Japan’s capital, Tokyo.
The American passengers landed at the Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, California, and a second batch arrived at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. All evacuees will be facing a 14-day mandatory quarantine period upon landing at the bases.
Refusal to return home
A number of American passengers have refused to travel back home for fears of transmission and a prolonged quarantine in the US. The Americans who chose to stay in Japan say that they expect that the quarantine in Yokohama will end in a few more days.
According to CNN, one of the passengers, Matthew Smith, who decided against the evacuation, did not want to risk contracting the disease while at the two-week quarantine at the US base. “We decided we would just face whatever consequences here rather than exposing ourselves to that situation,” Smith said.
Spreading of virus on ship
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, a UK-flagged vessel, is believed to be the largest cluster of the coronavirus outbreak outside of China.
The source of the virus on the cruise ship is believed to have come from an 80-year-old man from Hong Kong who had briefly visited mainland China and boarded the ship in Yokohama on January 20.
A total of 454 people on board have been confirmed with the coronavirus, as of February 17.