Flights carrying American passengers from a cruise ship took off from Japan.
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.
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.
U.S. bases brace for American evacuees.
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 says a man with no known history of travel to mainland China has died.
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.
After hundreds disembarked from a cruise ship, an American tested positive for coronavirus.
An American woman who disembarked from a cruise ship in Cambodia last week has tested positive twice for the coronavirus since flying on to Malaysia, officials in that country said on Sunday.
Cambodia allowed the ship, the Westerdam, to dock after five other countries turned it away over concerns about the coronavirus. Officials said that more than 140 other passengers from the Westerdam had flown from Cambodia to the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. All but the American woman and her husband had been allowed to continue to their destinations, including airports in the United States, the Netherlands and Australia.
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.
The rate of new cases appears to slow, even as the death toll continues to rise.
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.
Xi Jinping began fighting the virus earlier than previously known, a newly published speech indicates.
Under fire for its initial response to the coronavirus epidemic, China’s authoritarian government appears to be pushing a new account of events that presents President Xi Jinping as taking early action to fight the outbreak that has convulsed the country.
But in doing so, the authorities have acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Xi was aware of the epidemic nearly two weeks before he first spoke publicly about it — and while officials at its epicenter, in the city of Wuhan, were still playing down its dangers.
That new account risks drawing the president, China’s most powerful leader in decades, directly into questions about whether top officials did too little, too late.
In the newly released internal speech that Mr. Xi delivered on Feb. 3, when the epidemic had already spiraled into a national crisis, the Chinese president said he had “issued demands about the efforts to prevent and control” the coronavirus on Jan. 7, during a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest council of the Communist Party, whose sessions are typically very secretive.
In the speech, he also said he had authorized the unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan and other cities beginning on Jan. 23.
“I have at every moment monitored the spread of the epidemic and progress in efforts to curtail it, constantly issuing oral orders and also instructions,” Mr. Xi said of his more recent involvement.
Mr. Xi’s advisers may have hoped that publishing the speech would dispel speculation about his recent retreat from public view and reassure his people that he can be trusted to lead them out of the epidemic.
But the speech could expose Mr. Xi to criticism that he didn’t treat the initial threat urgently enough, and make it difficult for him to shift blame onto local officials.
In early January, leaders in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak, were giving open assurances that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.
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.