World • 17 February, 2020

Planes carrying American evacuees from virus-hit ship leave Japan

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Two U.S. government-chartered planes carrying hundreds of American citizens evacuated from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo departed the capital from Haneda airport Monday morning, .

The evacuees left Yokohama Port around 1:40 a.m. Monday aboard 10 coaches belonging to Japan's Self-Defense Forces, with drivers in protective suits.

Of some 400 U.S. citizens who were aboard the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, 44 tested positive for coronavirus, The Washington Post said, quoting Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci told CBS news that those who tested positive are "going to be in hospitals in Japan." He added "the degree of transmissibility on that cruise ship is essentially akin to being in a hot spot."

The evacuation places those Americans whose traveling companions have been infected with the virus in a difficult position.

"We are spinning out of control again," American passenger Kent Frasure, whose wife Rebecca tested positive and was sent to a hospital in Tokyo, told CNN.

"I would not get on a flight without Rebecca," he said.

The evacuees will be quarantined for 14 days and housed at Travis Air Force Base in California, or Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

Some other American passengers also expressed frustration at the situation, with one telling CNN from her cabin that another two weeks away from home would cost her upward of $50,000.

"It is financially devastating as well as emotionally devastating. I was in tears when I got the news," said Karey Mansicalco, who owns a real estate firm in Utah.

"I did not have the words to explain how I felt. And now I just feel angry," she said.

Canada, Hong Kong and Israel have also said they are preparing to send chartered flights to Japan to evacuate their citizens from the vessel, where 355 infections are confirmed. Currently, the ship is holding around 3,000 passengers and crew.

Meanwhile, Japan's fifth chartered flight to evacuate its nationals from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19, arrived at Haneda airport Monday morning. On the Boeing 767 were 36 Japanese citizens and 29 family members who are Chinese.

All Japanese citizens and their families of other nationalities in Hubei Province who wish to return to Japan have done so. The Japanese government believes its evacuation operation of citizens by chartered flights is complete, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Of the 65 passengers, 13 were children aged 12 or younger and six were aged 60 or above. Twenty-eight of the evacuees were residents of Wuhan, while 37 were from other cities in the province.

The government will continue to provide support to ensure the safety of those who remain in the Chinese province as well as travelers, the ministry said.

A total of 828 people have returned to Japan on the five chartered flights.

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