Australia is to follow the US in evacuating its citizens from the Diamond Princess, which has been stranded off Yokohama, Japan, for two weeks. Australia will bring back more than 200 citizens, and Canada and Italy have also said that they will be sending planes to pick up their citizens from the vessel. The UK, which has 57 citizens on the UK-flagged cruise ship, has said that it is working closely with Japanese authorities on the matter.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said that the Australian passengers would depart on Wednesday February 19th and would be taken to Darwin, Northern Territories, where they would be quarantined for another 14 days.
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama on February 3rd after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus. Questions have been raised as to the efficacy of quarantining on a cruise ship, since more than 350 passengers since then have tested positive for coronavirus, including 24 Australians.
Morrison said that 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.
Australian chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said that a further quarantine period was necessary because “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”.
The US evacuated about 400 citizens from the Diamond Princess over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Canada said late on February 15th that it had chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens. Canadian passengers who exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus infection will not be permitted to board the flight and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health care system to receive “appropriate care”. After arriving in Canada, the passengers will undergo a 14-day period of quarantine.
Finally, Italy said on Sunday it would evacuate citizens from the Diamond Princess. “We decided yesterday to send a flight and bring those 35 Italians home,” Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Twitter on Sunday.
2004-built, UK-flagged, 115,906 gt Diamond Princess is owned by Fairline Shipping International Corp care of manager Princess Cruise Lines of Valencia, California. It is entered with UK Club and Steamship Mutual.