U.S. Will Evacuate Americans From Cruise Ship Quarantined in Japan – The New York Times

YOKOHAMA, Japan — The United States will evacuate Americans from the cruise ship that has been quarantined for more than a week in Japan due to coronavirus infections on board, the United States Embassy in Tokyo told Americans aboard the ship on Saturday.

A chartered flight will arrive on Sunday for those who want to return to the United States, according to an email from the embassy to American passengers and crew members. Hundreds of Americans are on the ship.

“We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can and seeing you safely and expeditiously reunited with family and friends in the United States,” the email read.

Buses will move Americans and their belongings from the ship to the chartered plane, and the evacuees will be screened for symptoms before boarding, the email read. The plane will land at Travis Air Force Base in California. Some passengers will then continue onward to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Symptomatic Americans who cannot board the flight will remain in Japan for care, according to the email. At least 40 Americans have already been taken off the ship after being infected with the virus.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The evacuated Americans will then need to undergo two weeks of additional quarantine in the United States. “We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease,” the email read.

It said that those who chose not to take the flight would be “unable to return to the United States for a period of time,” though it did not specify how long; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would decide the timeline.

The Americans were asked to notify the embassy if they wanted to travel with immediate family members who were not American citizens.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the government was preparing to evacuate Americans.

The ship, the Diamond Princess, was placed under quarantine at the city of Yokohama early last week with about 3,700 passengers and crew members aboard, after a man who had disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Since then, at least 218 new cases have been confirmed aboard the ship.

Many passengers have expressed fear that the quarantine, meant to protect Japan and keep the virus from spreading, was putting them at risk. Experts have said that infections could have spread aboard the ship, despite measures taken to isolate people.

Japan has more confirmed coronavirus cases — the vast majority of them from the Diamond Princess — than any country outside China, where the outbreak began, and it reported its first death from the virus on Thursday.

On Friday, the Japanese government said an official who had helped transfer infected patients from the cruise ship had tested positive for the virus. A Health Ministry official who had been tending to passengers on board also tested positive.

At a news briefing on Friday, an official with the C.D.C., Nancy Messonnier, said officials were discussing a plan to ensure the Americans’ safety.

“It’s really important to all of us that these people are safe and taken well care of,” Dr. Messonnier said. “We are also concerned that the data coming out of Japan suggests there’s a higher risk among the people on the ship, and therefore their safety is of utmost importance.”

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