The first 500 passengers on the coronavirus hit Diamond Princess cruise liner, which has four Irish on board, are in the process of disembarking.
The liner, moored off the coast of Japan, has been quarantined since 3 February. A total of 542 cases of the virus were confirmed on board, this included two Irish citizens who were subsequently removed from the ship and hospitalised in Japan.
The four remaining Irish people, two passengers and two crew, had stayed on board as part of the quarantine process.
It is unclear if the two Irish passengers have left the ship yet today, the end of the quarantine period.
The two Irish crew are understood to have to remain until the last of the passengers have left.
Passengers will only be allowed leave today if they test negative for the coronavirus.
Some who test negative will have to stay longer because of potential exposure to infected passengers.
Originally around 3,700 passengers and crew were on the liner.
Hundreds of passengers and crew have tested positive as a result of the failed quarantine on the liner over the last fourteen days.
Princess Cruises, which runs the cruise ship docked in Japan said the Embassies of Canada, Australia and Hong Kong are coordinating the collection and transport of their respective citizens, guests and crew, via charter flights today.
It did not refer to the Irish embassy although foreign affairs officials said they are trying to arrange transport Irish nationals.
The Princess Cruises said that based on information provided by the embassies directly to their citizens, they will also require an additional 14 days of quarantine upon arrival in their country of origin.
A negative virus test following this quarantine will be required before being allowed to travel to their final destination.
“We expect to receive confirmation of the exact numbers of those traveling on these charter flights after the flights have departed.”
According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, the disembark process for those individuals who are not taking government repatriation flights will start today.
The disembark process will be undertaken over several consecutive days, since they will be tested, and the testing and results require two to three days to complete.
A certificate that indicates a negative COVID-19 test result is expected to be granted by Japanese health authorities to exit the ship.
Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president is back in Japan with other members of her team supporting our response operations and preparing for the disembarkation of our guests.
Working in coordination with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Princess Cruises will be monitoring the progress of guests who have contracted COVID-19 and will be offering travel assistance to these individuals upon their recovery and delivery of a heath certificate by Japanese health authorities).
Because of the extraordinary circumstances on-board Diamond Princess, the company is refunding the full cruise fare for all guests including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities and other items.
In addition, guests are not being charged for any on-board incidental charges during the additional time on-board. Princess Cruises will also provide guests with a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for the voyage.
Meanwhile, another nine Irish citizens are believed to be passengers on the Westerdam Cruise Ship which is docked off Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
Seven of these are currently being screened for the virus. The two other Irish holidaymakers on this ship returned home over the weekend