Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Cruise Ship Passengers Evacuated From Japan; Taiwan Reports First Death

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American passengers evacuated a cruise ship that has been quarantined for more than a week in the Japanese port city of Yokohama, after hundreds of people on board fell ill with the coronavirus.

The Americans boarded two chartered flights to the United States, which departed Tokyo at 7:05 a.m. Monday, according to a statement by the United States Embassy in Japan.

As the passengers prepared to leave the country, Japanese health officials said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases found on the ship, the Diamond Princess, had grown by 70, to 355.

“Can’t get off here fast enough,” said Sarah Arana, 52, a medical social worker from Paso Robles, Calif.

When the ship was placed under quarantine there were more than 3,700 passengers and crew aboard, including about 400 Americans. The U.S. Embassy in Japan had previously recommended that American citizens stay aboard the ship during a 14-day quarantine period. But it changed course on Saturday, citing “a rapidly evolving situation” as conditions appeared to worsen.

Only American passengers who were screened and did not show any symptoms of the illness were allowed to board the flights, according to a statement from the State Department.

“All travelers on these flights were screened for symptoms prior to departure and will be subject to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) screening, health observation, and monitoring requirements,” the statement said. “Only those who were asymptomatic were allowed to board the flights.”

Once in the United States, passengers will undergo a 14-day quarantine at either Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., or Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The embassy said that those who did not take the charter flights would not be allowed to travel to the United States until March 4, two weeks after they would otherwise be allowed to leave the ship.

The United States Department of Defense said it was preparing to receive the two evacuation flights carrying American passengers from the Diamond Princess, docked in Japan.

The passengers will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine, as mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Defense Department spokesman, said on Sunday.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ goal is to ensure that none of those who are evacuated are transferred to the bases — Travis Air Force Base in California, and Kelly Field / Lackland Air Force Base in Texas — if they test positive for the virus. Evacuees who do, or who show symptoms of the virus, will be taken “to a suitable off-base facility at the direction of C.D.C.,” he said.

Taiwan said that a 61-year-old man who had a history of diabetes and hepatitis B had died of the coronavirus.

The man, who died Saturday after nearly two weeks in a hospital, did not have a known history of traveling to mainland China, and health officials were investigating how he came to be infected.

News outlets in Taiwan reported that the man had worked as a taxi driver and could have been infected by a passenger. A male relative in his 50s who lived with the man was also infected, health officials said.

Taiwan has recorded 20 cases of the new coronavirus, and it has enacted strict limits on travel from the mainland to prevent further spread.

The woman, who is 83, and her husband, who is 85 and also an American citizen, were both hospitalized and placed in isolation. The husband has also been tested twice for the virus, and the results were negative both times. But he has pneumonia, which is often a sign of the virus that appears before it can be identified through testing.

Dr. Eyal Leshem, the director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, called the disclosures “extremely concerning” and said the flights taken by the passengers from Kuala Lumpur substantially increased the risk of a global pandemic. “We may end up with three or four countries with sustained transmission of the virus,” he said.

“It may be more and more difficult to make sure this outbreak is contained only within China,” Dr. Leshem said.

The Westerdam, carrying 2,257 passengers and crew, departed from Hong Kong on Feb. 1 and was at sea for nearly 14 days, the time frame that is believed to be the maximum incubation period for the highly transmissible virus.

China reported 2,009 new cases of coronavirus and 142 associated deaths in the previous 24 hours on Sunday, days after the government changed the criteria for how it tracks cases.

In all, more than 68,500 people have been infected and at least 1,669 have died worldwide, officials have said. The vast majority of cases, and all but a few of the deaths, have been in mainland China, with the heaviest concentration in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak.

Even as the death toll mounted, the fatality rate remained stable, and the rate of new cases has slowed in the past three days. That decline in new cases follows a spike of more than 15,000 on Thursday, when the government began counting cases diagnosed in clinical settings, including with the use of CT scans, and not just those confirmed with specialized testing kits.

Research and reporting was contributed by Richard C. Paddock, Sun Narin, Sui-Lee Wee, Russell Goldman, Amy Qin, Austin Ramzy, Motoko Rich, Eimi Yamamitsu and Chris Cameron.

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