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U.S. to evacuate Americans from cruise ship in Yokohama: report

The U.S. government will evacuate American citizens and their families from a virus-hit cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, as concerns have been growing inside the country about its people remaining on board.
About 380 people aboard the Diamond Princess will be offered seats on two evacuation flights from Japan back to the United States and will arrive as early as Sunday, the newspaper said, citing an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A State Department official did not directly comment on the report, only saying, "The U.S. Embassy (in Tokyo) remains in close contact with all relevant authorities to ensure U.S. citizens aboard the ship, and their families, are fully informed as the situation develops."
"Our primary goal is to ensure the welfare and safety of all U.S. citizens involved," the official said, requesting anonymity.
More than a week has passed since the cruise ship, now with around 3,400 passengers and crew aboard, was put under a two-week quarantine at Yokohama Port after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected with COVID-19, the pneumonia-causing new coronavirus.
The number of confirmed cases of infection has since steadily increased to 218, scaring the passengers and crew who have been told to remain on the ship until next Wednesday when the monitoring period ends.
The report comes after Japan confirmed a rise in COVID-19 cases from people with no direct connection to China, where the virus originated.
On Saturday, a second doctor at a hospital in Wakayama Prefecture tested positive for the new coronavirus, a prefectural official said.
There are now 260 people infected with the virus in Japan, including the 218 on the Diamond Princess.
At the hospital in the town of Yuasa in the prefecture, there are now three confirmed cases of infection -- the two male doctors in their 50s and a male patient in his 70s.
On the Diamond Princess, passengers and crew have been complaining about deteriorating sanitary conditions, including no cleaning services and bedsheets that have not been changed for days. Some have also complained of being cooped up in windowless cabins.
The ship has been labeled "the site of the biggest outbreak of the novel coronavirus outside China."
With global attention increasingly focused on the situation, the Japanese health ministry said Thursday that it will allow medically vulnerable people, including those who are elderly with pre-existing health conditions, to complete their remaining quarantine period ashore.
According to The WSJ, American evacuees will likely arrive first at Travis Air Force Base in California, where they will undergo additional health screenings.
Some may remain at Travis, where they will face a mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days, while others may be moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for quarantine.
A CDC team is on the ground in Japan to assess the health of the passengers. Those with a fever, cough or other symptoms will not be allowed on the flights, the newspaper said.


© KYODO
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