Fourteen US citizens who were evacuated from a Japanese cruise ship that had been quarantined over the deadly coronavirus tested positive before boarding a plane home, and had to travel in an “isolation box” at the back of the aircraft.
The passengers were among more than 300 US citizens on the Diamond Princess, which had been quarantined off the coast of Japan for more than 10 days until they were evacuated on Monday.
They tested positive after they left the ship and as they were traveling to their plane home, the US State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said in a joint statement on Monday.
A passenger stands on the balcony of the Diamond Princess, anchored at the Yokohama Port near Tokyo on Friday, February 7, 2020.
AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
“During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, U.S. officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19,” it said.
The agencies also said the passengers had been evaluated, and “all were deemed asymptomatic and fit to fly before being processed for evacuation.”
When the test results were discovered, the 14 passengers were moved to a “specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them.” The State Department, after consulting with experts, allowed them to fly while isolated from other passengers.
Photos and video footage from the plane, taken by fellow evacuees, shows the portable bio-containment unit for those passengers.
A health official talks to US passengers who chose to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship in front of the bio-containment unit on their evacuation flight on February 17, 2020.
“All passengers are being closely monitored by medical professionals throughout the flight, and any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated,” the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said.
Those who do not show any symptoms or have positive test results will still be brought to military bases and be quarantined for 14 days, they added.
It is not the only cruise ship that has been quarantined over the coronavirus.
The Westerdam spent five weeks at sea before a Cambodian port finally allowed it to dock, and health officials announced on Saturday that they found a case after hundreds of people were allowed to leave the ship and begin their travels home.
Family members of passengers onboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess wave and talk to them on the phone at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, February 11, 2020.