No fewer than 328 Americans who were said to have been previously onboard a cruise ship quarantined off Japan, left for home early Monday morning on chartered flights, while 44 stayed in Japan for medical treatment.
According to the report by Japanttimes, a US official confirmed that those that remained out of the 328 Americans that left, are among hundreds that have become infected with COVID-19 aboard the cruise ship.
The 328 Americans have since landed at military bases in California and Texas overnight, and have already started the clock on a quarantine period to ensure passengers don’t have the new virus.
The two chartered planes carrying the Americans touched down at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California just before 11:30 p.m. Sunday, local time. A second flight arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas around 2 1/2 hours later, early Monday.
The evacuation coincided with heightened warnings from Japanese authorities over the deadly outbreak, urging citizens to avoid crowds and “non-essential gatherings.”
The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine in early February, initially for 14 days, after a former passenger tested positive for the new coronavirus.
But U.S. authorities announced over the weekend that they would offer American passengers the option to leave the ship and fly home, where they will face another 14-day isolation period. Several other governments, including Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Italy, have also announced plans to remove their citizens from the ship.
Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono had tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.
The U.S. said it arranged the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the virus. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cuts short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship Feb. 5.
The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmed they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they did not have symptoms. They were being isolated separately from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday that an infected person who shows minimal symptoms could still pass the virus to someone else.
After arriving in the U.S., all of the passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.