More than 300 Americans who were aboard a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan are back home Monday after the U.S. government chartered two flights that landed at Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, NBC News reports.
Of those evacuated, 14 Americans tested positive for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus that has claimed nearly 1,800 lives in mainland China. The U.S. State Department worked with the Department of Health and Human Services alongside other agencies to bring the stranded passengers back to the U.S.
“These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” a Department of State spokesperson said.
Officials were alerted to the 14 passengers who tested positive during the evacuation process. The State Department decided to allow the asymptomatic passengers to board the flights back to the U.S. after consulting with health officials. Evacuees were closely monitored by health officials throughout the flight home and anyone who showed symptoms was placed in a specialized containment area.
However, the passengers aren't through with their ordeal just yet. The evacuees will now have to go through a 14-day federal quarantine before they will be allowed to go home.
The evacuated passengers had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined since Feb. 3 after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. Of the 3,700 passengers and crew on board, more than 1,700 people aboard the cruise ship have been tested since the quarantine began. At least 454 passengers aboard the vessel have tested positive for the virus.
The death toll from the novel coronavirus increased to 1,772 on Monday with the number of confirmed cases reached 70,635 in China. Another 624 cases have been confirmed in 25 countries across the world, including 15 in the U.S.
Photo: Getty Images