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Coronavirus: Americans from quarantined cruise ship land back in US

After arriving in the US, all of the passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine.

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Passengers boarded the Kalitta Air plane (Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)

Passengers boarded the Kalitta Air plane (Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)

Passengers boarded the Kalitta Air plane (Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)

Two charter flights carrying American cruise ship passengers from Japan have landed at military bases in California and Texas.

A plane touched down at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California just before 11.30pm on Sunday, local time. A second flight arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas around two-and-a-half hours later.

Japan’s defence minister Taro Kono had tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 US passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.

Buses carrying US passengers who were on board the Diamond Princess
Buses carrying US passengers who were on board the Diamond Princess (Jun Hirata/Kyodo News via AP)

The US said it arranged the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the virus. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cuts short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship on February 5.

The US State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmation they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they did not have symptoms. They were being isolated separately from other passengers on the flight, the US State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said an infected person who shows minimal symptoms could still pass the virus to someone else.

After arriving in the US, all of the passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities – meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.

Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights of passengers. Other governments, including Canada and Hong Kong, also will require the passengers to undergo a second 14-day quarantine.

Passengers on the flight
Passengers on the flight (Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)

Japan announced another 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship’s total number of cases to 454. Overall, Japan has 419 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death. The United States has confirmed 15 cases within the country. Separately, one US citizen died in China.

Some American passengers said they would pass up the opportunity to fly to the United States because of the additional quarantine. There was also worry about being on a long flight with other passengers who may be infected or in an incubation period.

One of the Americans, Matthew Smith, said in a tweet that he saw a passenger with no face mask talking at close quarters with another passenger.

“If there are secondary infections on board, this is why,” he said. “And you wanted me to get on a bus with her?”

He said the American health officials who visited their room were apparently surprised that the couple had decided to stay, and wished them luck.

“Thanks, but we’re fine,” Mr Smith said he told them.

PA Media