The US has evacuated some of its citizens from a cruise ship quarantined over coronavirus fears.
Two charter flights carrying some of the 380 Americans on board the Diamond Princess ship moored at Yokohama Port near Tokyo had left Japan for America on Sunday, the US State Department said.
Once back in the US, the repatriated passengers will have to spend another two weeks in quarantine at a US military facility.
Image: Evacuated US passengers seen on a shuttle bus
US couple to evacuate quarantined cruise ship
Of the 3,500 people on board the ship, 355 have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
One US couple, Cheryl and Paul Molesky, filmed themselves boarding the flight after being kept inside their cabin for 12 days.
“Well we’re exhausted but we’re on the plane and that’s a good feeling,” Mrs Molesky said.
Her husband added they had spent “five hours on the bus, waiting to get off the bus” before boarding the flight.
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Canada, Hong Kong and Italy are also planning similar repatriation flights.
Meanwhile, Britons held on the ship have accused the UK government of “forgetting” about them.
In a video message, British passenger David Abel said: “Every country except the UK has become involved, and that is really wonderful for the people on board the ship.
Briton describes cruise quarantine
“Every country except for the United Kingdom.
“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.”
Fellow Briton Alan Steele, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and taken to hospital while celebrating his honeymoon on the cruise ship, said it was time for Boris Johnson to “get the Brits back”.
Mr Steele, who has since tested negative for the disease, posted on Facebook: “I think it is about time boris got the brits back to england as the japanese are being totally incompetent and do not realise you cannot keep ppl in solitary confinement for 28 days without damaging their mental health. [sic]
Image: Alan Steele with his wife on their wedding day
“What does WHO [World Health Organisation] have to say about this and I am sure cruel punishment like this has to be illegal.”
News agency PA understands that the UK government is considering a repatriation flight.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We sympathise with all those caught up in this extremely difficult situation.
“We are urgently considering all options to guarantee the health and safety of the British people on board the Diamond Princess, in line with the latest advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the World Health Organisation, and are working closely with the Japanese authorities and our international partners.
“Our staff in Tokyo, including the ambassador, have been in regular contact with the British passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess and we have also been speaking to families in the UK.”
Other passengers fear they may be kept in quarantine beyond the initial 19 February deadline, after Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said the quarantine may be extended for guests who had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
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Ms Swartz said: “We also now understand the Japanese may handle a select group of guests differently, anyone who had close contact with a person who tested positive – such as a cabin mate – may have to restart their quarantine from the date their close contact ended.”
It comes as the death toll from COVID-19 hit more than 1,773, according to the Johns Hoskins Centre for Systems Science and Engineering.
So far there have been more than 71,000 suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19, with many of the cases concentrated in mainland China.
Source : Sky News