February 18, 2020 / 9:58 AM / in 3 months

Taiwan to evacuate citizens from virus-stricken cruiseship in Japan

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan said on Tuesday it would charter a plane to evacuate its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise liner quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Four Taiwanese nationals on the ship have tested positive for the virus, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters, adding that the government was still discussing the details and timing of the evacuation with Japanese officials.

“All Taiwanese citizens on board the cruise ship, including passengers and staff, will need to take the chartered plane and observe related quarantine measures if they want to return to the country,” Chen said.

More than 20 Taiwanese are on the stricken vessel, which has seen the most coronavirus infections outside China.

A further 88 people have tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess, bringing the total number of infected passengers to 542, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Foreign governments including Australia, Canada, Italy and South Korea also plan to take citizens off the cruise liner, whose more than 3,000 passengers and crew have been in quarantine since early this month after a passenger who had left it in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.

In Taiwan, a taxi driver died from the new coronavirus, the first such fatality on the island and the fifth outside mainland China.

Taiwan, which has banned entry to Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China and suspended most flights to its giant neighbour, now has 22 confirmed cases.

Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Helen Popper

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