U.S. to evacuate American citizens aboard quarantined cruise ship off Japan


FILE PHOTO: A passenger wearing a mask stands on the deck of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, as the vessel’s passengers continue to be tested for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – The United States said it will send an aircraft to Japan to bring back U.S. passengers on the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, where the most coronavirus infections outside China have occurred.

The U.S. embassy in Tokyo said in a letter to passengers that the aircraft would arrive in Japan on the evening of Feb. 16 and that it recommended “out of an abundance of caution” that U.S. citizens disembark and return home for further monitoring.

The passengers would be required to undergo further quarantine of 14 days upon arriving 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 letter said.

“Should you choose not to return on this charter flight, you will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final determination on this matter,” it added. The cruise liner’s quarantine is set to end on Feb. 19.

The 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 traveled 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.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Additional reporting by William Mallard and Ju-min Park in Tokyo and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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