YOKOHAMA (REUTERS) The US State Department will evacuate American citizens and their families aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been quarantined in a Japanese port for nearly two weeks as many passengers are infected with the novel coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (Feb 14).
About 380 people will be offered seats on two evacuation flights from Japan back to the United States, the Journal said, citing an official of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The evacuees will arrive in the United States as early as Sunday, the newspaper said, citing Dr Henry Walke, director of the CDC’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections.
The CDC was not immediately available for comment.
The US and Japanese governments said they have been in close contact with each other, but declined to confirm the report.
"We have had various exchanges with the US government about how to respond to the situation," Masato Otaka, press secretary for Japan’s Foreign Ministry, said via email.
One US passenger, Sawyer Smith, 25, told Reuters that passengers had been told there would be an announcement from the captain later.
The prospect of potentially more time in quarantine seemed to dishearten others.
"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 US pursuant to our own arrangements. What’s wrong with that?," tweeted passenger Matthew Smith.
The cruise liner’s quarantine is set to end on Feb 19.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama on Feb 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus.
At the time, it had some 3,500 passengers and crew on board, of whom 218 have tested positive for the coronavirus infection and are now in Japanese hospitals.