A total of 14 passengers were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus as they were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and left the country on a flight chartered by the US government, according to a joint statement by the US Departments of State, and Health and Human Services.
The US government arranged the jet to evacuate American passengers stuck on the ship, and more than 300 people boarded the plane, which left Japan yesterday. Americans who had already tested positive for coronavirus were not be allowed to board the evacuation charters.
Here's what the statement said:
During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, US officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19. These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols.
After consultation with HHS officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process.
During the flights, these individuals will continue to be isolated from the other passengers. These flights departed Japan at approximately 4:30 PM Eastern time on February 16 and will arrive in the United States later this morning.
All passengers are being closely monitored by medical professionals throughout the flight, and any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated.
More than 3,600 people, including 428 Americans, were stuck on the ship after revelations earlier this month that a passenger on board had been infected with the virus.
At least 46 Americans are among the 356 people infected with coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess and will remain in Japanese hospitals.
Passengers onboard the chartered flight will undergo two weeks of quarantine upon arrival in the US. That decision by the US government prompted anger from some exhausted passengers.