US to evacuate hundreds of Americans aboard quarantined cruise ship off Japan

The US Embassy in Japan announced that American citizens and their families aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined for nearly two weeks off the coast of Japan after a coronavirus outbreak on board, will be flown back home on a chartered flight on Sunday.

About 3,700 people are aboard the cruise, which has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670.

So far, 218 people from the ship have tested positive for the virus. The ship was placed under quarantine on February 4 and it isn’t scheduled to be lifted until February 19.

About 380 Americans are aboard the ship, which has docked at Yokohama, a port city southwest of Tokyo.

Among the passengers are also 15 Israelis who are currently under quarantine. No one of the Israelis has been reported infected.

Japan’s deputy ambassador to Israel said that the release of the Israelis will be carried out only after the isolation period is over.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that even after the ongoing quarantine ends, it is not clear whether Japanese health authorities will permit Israelis to immediately return to their home country.

Japan’s Health Ministry allowed 11 passengers to disembark Friday, saying that those above 80 years of age, with underlying medical conditions as well as those staying in windowless cabins during the 14-day quarantine, can stay at a designated facility onshore.

China’s coronavirus outbreak has now infected more than 67,000 people and killed over 1,500, the vast majority in mainland China.

Beijing has ordered everyone returning to the Chinese capital from holidays to go into quarantine for 14 days or risk punishment, state media reported.

Citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, who has been covering the virus outbreak for weeks, “disappeared” after his reports from Wuhan started getting millions of hits.