Son of Israeli on cruise ship: Release of Americans shows quarantine ineffective
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Son of Israeli on cruise ship: Release of Americans shows quarantine ineffective

Israeli passengers expected to disembark in coming days if they test negative for coronavirus; American passengers gripe over 2nd quarantine after they are repatriated from ship

A bus with a driver wearing full protective gear departs from the dockside next to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14, 2020. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
A bus with a driver wearing full protective gear departs from the dockside next to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14, 2020. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

A relative of Israeli passengers on a quarantined cruise ship said Saturday that the expected release of American passengers shows that the isolation of passengers on the boat is “ineffective and dangerous.”

“The message from the Americans reinforces our feelings along with those of our relatives on the ship, that the quarantine on the boat is irrelevant, ineffective and dangerous,” Yoni Levy, whose mother and sister are aboard the Diamond Princess, told the Ynet news site. “We hope that the Americans’ action will promote the release of Israelis to isolation in Israel.”

According to the news outlet, the Israeli embassy in Tokyo updated the 15 Israeli passengers on board the cruise ship that Japanese authorities aim to evacuate all passengers from the ship by late Thursday.

Passengers will be tested for the coronavirus before they will be allowed to leave the cruise ship.

However, according to CNN, the disembarkation of non-American passengers will only begin on Thursday and will likely take several days.

Medical workers with protective suites walk away from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo, February 11, 2020. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

The US said Saturday that Americans aboard the ship will be flown back home on a chartered flight Sunday, but that they will face another two-week quarantine.

About 380 Americans are aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has docked at Yokohama, a port city southwest of Tokyo. So far, 285 people from the ship have tested positive for the new virus that began in China, after 67 new cases were found Saturday.

The passengers have been quarantined on the ship since Feb. 5. That 14-day quarantine is due to end Wednesday.

A chartered aircraft will arrive in Japan late Sunday and American passengers will be flown to Travis Air Force Base in California, with some continuing to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the US Embassy in Tokyo said in a letter to passengers and crew that was posted online Saturday.

Everyone will get a checkup before being allowed on the chartered flight, and those who show symptoms of sickness will not be permitted to board the plane, the embassy said.

An ambulance arrives at the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored at Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Feb. 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

After arriving in the US, all of the passengers will need to go through another 14 days of quarantine, the letter said — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.

“We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can and seeing you safely and expeditiously reunited with family and friends in the United States,” it said.

The US State Department urged American passengers to return home.

“To fulfill our government’s responsibilities to US citizens under our rules and practices, as well as to reduce the burden on the Japanese healthcare system, the US government recommends, out of an abundance of caution, that US citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring,” the department said in a statement.

One of the American passengers, Matthew Smith, who has been tweeting aboard the ship, including photos of the food passengers have been given, expressed disappointment at what he called “a monkey wrench” the American government was throwing into the quarantine aboard the ship.

Smith complained about having to begin a new 14-day quarantine even though he was due to get off the ship next week.

“OK, so here’s the thing: As long as the official plan by Japanese health officials is to release those of us who are still healthy from quarantine in just under four days, why would I want to interfere with that by taking up an offer from US officials to fly us back to Travis?” he said on Twitter.

American passengers won’t be the only ones facing a second quarantine, however. Hong Kong’s government announced Saturday that it was arranging to bring back residents aboard the ship as soon as possible on a chartered flight, and that they will need to stay at a quarantine center for two weeks upon arrival.

The letter to Americans on the Diamond Princess warns, “Should you choose not to return on this charter flight, you will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time.”

In this February 4, 2020, photo taken by a passenger, medical workers in protective suits walk on the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored off Yokohama, south of Tokyo (@daxa_tw via AP)

Japan’s Health Ministry allowed 11 passengers to disembark Friday, saying that those over 80 years old or with underlying medical conditions, as well as those staying in windowless cabins during the 14-day quarantine, can stay at a designated facility on shore.

Separately, the Japanese government said Saturday that a chartered flight to bring Japanese out of Wuhan — the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak of the virus — will leave Sunday and return Monday. That would be the fifth such plane for Japan.

Besides the cases on the cruise ship, Japan has reported 55 others. Three new cases were reported Saturday in Wakayama prefecture in central Japan, and eight were reported in Tokyo.

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