February 17, 2020 / 5:32 AM / 4 months ago

Australia to evacuate more than 200 citizens from cruise ship quarantined at Japan port

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will evacuate more than 200 of its citizens onboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship being held under quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Morrison said the passengers will depart on Wednesday and will be taken to Australia’s tropical north, where they will be required to be quarantined for another 14 days.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama on Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it traveled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus.

More than 350 passengers onboard the Diamond Princess have tested positive for coronavirus, including 24 Australians.

“For those more than 200 Australians who will be returning to Australia, we are going to have to require a further 14-day quarantine period to be put in place on their return to Darwin,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

Morrison also said space on the Qantas Airways plane will be provided for an unspecified number of New Zealand citizens on the cruise ship.

Those passengers will be transferred to New Zealand when they arrive in Darwin, Morrison said.

Despite passengers’ spending two weeks confined to their cabins, some of which were windowless, Australian health officials said a further quarantine period was necessary.

“Given there has been recent cases, we cannot be absolutely sure that any of the currently well people on the ship who are coming home on Wednesday are not carrying the virus,” said Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer.

On Sunday, the United States evacuated about 400 citizens from the Diamond Princess, while Canada, Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong have also announced plans to repatriate passengers.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gerry Doyle

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