US government is set to evacuate all American citizens from Diamond Princess, the cruise ship which quarantined on the Japanese port since early February, the US embassy in Japan said on Saturday. About 380 Americans are aboard the ship which has been quarantined on Yokohama, a port city near Tokyo. The deadly coronavirus has killed nearly 1,526 and infected over 67,000 across with three killed outside mainland China, international media reported.
A letter addressed to the passengers, which was posted on the US Embassy's official website read,
"The aircraft will arrive in Japan on the evening of February 16. Buses will move you and your belongings from the ship to the aircraft. Passengers will be screened for symptoms and we are working with our Japanese partners to ensure that any symptomatic passengers receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight. The aircraft will land in the United States at Travis Air Force Base in California. Some passengers will then continue onward to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. We will provide information about your final destination prior to boarding the plane. "
The letter further said that the passengers would be quarantined for another two weeks after they land on US soil. It added that all the passengers who choose not to return on this charter flight will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time. So far, 218 people from the ship have tested positive for a new virus. The United States has 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The outbreak of the deadly virus took place in China's Wuhan in January. While the Chinese doctor, reprimanded by police after warning colleagues about the disease, died after falling ill. Countries have started evacuating their citizens from China and have been issuing travel advisory. The virus was officially named 'COVID-19' at a conference in Geneva held by the World Health Organisation, and was declared a 'global public health emergency'.