February 16 coronavirus news

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12:08 p.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Defense Department confirms it is prepared to receive the two charter flights from Japan

The Defense Department confirmed today that two charter planes carrying about 400 Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship will be arriving at two military bases in support of efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The Defense Department is prepared to receive two Department of State chartered evacuation flights from Japan, carrying passengers evacuated from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, currently docked in Tokyo," the Defense Department said.

One of the aircrafts will land at Travis Air Force Base, California and the other will land at Kelly Field/Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, the statement said.

The DOD said that — as previously announced — "these individuals will be subject to a CDC managed 14-day quarantine. HHS will ensure that no evacuated personnel are transferred to any DOD installation if they test positive for the COVID-19 virus. Any evacuees who test positive or become symptomatic will be transferred to a suitable off-base facility at the direction of CDC."

12:08 p.m. ET, February 16, 2020

US secretary of state: "I think we all need to be mindful of the serious nature of the threat that is posed"

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Senegal's Foreign Affairs minister Amadou Ba arrive to hold a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Dakar on February 16.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Senegal's Foreign Affairs minister Amadou Ba arrive to hold a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Dakar on February 16. Andrew Cabellero-Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking to reporters Sunday in Senegal said, “I think we all need to be mindful of the serious nature of the threat that is posed” by the spread of the coronavirus.

"[W]e are prepared to do everything that the United States can do to reduce the risk to populations," Pompeo said.

Pompeo added that he was especially concerned about countries “where there is not significant capable healthcare infrastructure. That presents a lot of risk and we are already doing our best.”

11:04 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Japan confirms 6 new coronavirus cases not from the Diamond Princess cruise ship

Japan has identified six more positive cases of novel coronavirus not from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare announced.

That brings the total number of cases in Japan to 412, of which 356 are from the Diamond Princess and 56 are not.

10:59 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

First coronavirus death confirmed in Taiwan

People wear face masks and walk at a shopping mall in Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, January 31.
People wear face masks and walk at a shopping mall in Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, January 31. AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying

A Taiwanese man in his mid-60s who tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus has died, the Taiwanese Health Ministry announced on Sunday morning. 

The deceased man, who had a history of hepatitis B and diabetes and no history of traveling abroad, is the first person in Taiwan to die from the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, the ministry said in a statement.

Another case of the virus was also confirmed in Taiwan on Sunday, the health ministry said.

The man in his 50s who is currently asymptomatic, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the island to 20.

11:03 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Planes believed to be American charters land in Tokyo

Jumbo jets arrived to evacuate US citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Haneda airport in Tokyo on February 16.
Jumbo jets arrived to evacuate US citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Haneda airport in Tokyo on February 16. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Two Boeing 747 charter airplanes believed to be for Americans being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship today have just landed in Tokyo.

The two planes from Kalitta Air touched down at Haneda Airport at 8:30 a.m. ET.

8:24 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Holland America confirms virus case in former Westerdam passenger

Passengers watch as the Westerdam cruise ship arrives at the port in Sihanoukville on Cambodia's southern coast on February 13.
Passengers watch as the Westerdam cruise ship arrives at the port in Sihanoukville on Cambodia's southern coast on February 13. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

The company that owns the Westerdam cruise ship, which docked in Cambodia, has acknowledged that one of its disembarked passengers has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The guest departed Westerdam February 14 and later reported feeling ill at the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, airport,” the statement from Holland America read. “The guest was taken to the hospital and is reported to be in stable condition. The guest’s traveling companion tested negative for COVID-19.”

The company says that no other guests or crew, “on board or on their way home,” have reported being ill.

 “On Feb. 10, 2020, all 2,257 passengers and crew on board Westerdam were screened for illness including the taking of individual temperatures. No individual was identified with an elevated temperature. Also during disembarkation in Cambodia guests underwent an additional health screening including the completion of a written health questionnaire," the company said.

Holland America added: “Furthermore, the passports of everyone on board were reviewed to ensure no one had traveled through mainland China in the 14 days prior to the cruise. During the voyage there was no indication of COVID-19 on the ship. The guest who tested positive did not visit the ship’s medical center to report any symptoms of illness.”

8:24 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

The US is set to evacuate Americans from the Diamond Princess. Was it a failed quarantine? 

Passengers are seen on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with thousands of people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14.
Passengers are seen on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with thousands of people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14. Photo by Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

The US plan to evacuate Americans and their families from the Diamond Princess cruise ship appears, on its face, to be the case of a powerful government coming to the aide of its most vulnerable citizens.

Thousands of people have been stuck in their cabins under mandatory quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess, which is docked off the Japanese port city of Yokohama, since Feb. 3.

With 356 confirmed cases of coronavirus on board, 70 of which were announced Sunday, the ship has the largest concentration of novel coronavirus cases outside mainland China. On Feb. 19, the controversial quarantine period was set to finally end.

But on Saturday afternoon, the US embassy in Tokyo sent a notice to Americans on board the Diamond Princess laying out plans to evacuate nearly 400 Americans back home. 

Once there, another 14 days of mandatory quarantine would begin, and anyone who chose not to get on the flight would have to wait another 14 days in Japan to ensure they were symptom-free before returning to the US.

Some exhausted passengers aboard the ship are angry. 

One reason the passengers are so upset is because, as early as last week, experts had been questioning the Japanese government's decision to quarantine people on the ship.

"I don't understand why they have to be kept on a ship," said Peter Hotez, of the Baylor College of Medicine. "We're employing what I call 14th-century approaches and ethics to individuals with transmissible disease."

What all of this may mean: The abrupt change in US policy led some to believe that Washington lost faith in the effectiveness of the Japanese response.

Earlier this week, it emerged that some 1,000 crew on board the ship had not been kept in quarantine, eating meals together with masks off and working side by side.

Read the full story here.

6:27 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Italy to evacuate 35 nationals from Diamond Princess cruise in Japan

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has announced his government is planning to bring back 35 Italians currently on Diamond Princess cruise in Japan.

In a statement released on Sunday, Di Maio said a flight is expected to depart to bring the Italian citizens back, without giving more specific details of the flight.

“Italy never leaves its citizens alone. We are Italians, no one should be left behind,” the statement added without giving specific details about the flight.

Di Maio thanked all of those in his country and abroad providing support to his citizens.

8:27 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

British passengers on Diamond Princess feel "forgotten" as US plans evacuations

The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has thousands of quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, is seen through a fence at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 16, 2020. 
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has thousands of quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, is seen through a fence at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 16, 2020.  Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

A British man quarantined on board the Diamond Princess has said British nationals on board the cruise liner feel “forgotten,” as other countries start to evacuate their citizens from the ship. 

Outside China, the largest outbreak of novel coronavirus is on board the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, a port south of Tokyo. Thousands of passengers have been under strict controls on board for almost two weeks now, and on Sunday, a US government chartered flight is expected to evacuate nearly 400 Americans from the ship back to the United States where they will be placed in another 14-day quarantine.

On Saturday, Canada also announced plans to charter a plane to evacuate its citizens from the Diamond Princess. 

Passengers are getting despondent. Americans are going to be leaving the ship very soon,” passenger David Abel said in a Facebook live broadcast on Sunday. 
“Every country except the UK has become involved, and that is really wonderful for the people on board the ship. Every country except for the United Kingdom,” he said. 
“It feels that we have been forgotten. That you don’t really care about us, and that you’re actually not wanting us to come home,” he said, calling on the UK government to evacuate British nationals aboard the ship. 

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement:

We are urgently speaking to authorities in Japan and the UK. 
“We are working around the clock to ensure the welfare of the British nationals on board.”