Australia

Australians waiting to be evacuated from virus-hit cruise ship as US brings citizens home

An ambulance believed to be carrying a coronavirus patient who was on the Princess Diamond cruise ship. Source: AAP

About 200 Australians stranded on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan are waiting to find out whether they will be flown home as American passengers were taken off the virus-hit ship.

Australians stranded on a cruise ship off Japan because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak could soon be evacuated.

The Morrison government is considering a plan to bring Australians on the Diamond Princess home later this week with an announcement expected on Monday.

About 200 Australians are on the ship, which has been quarantined in the port of Yokohama for more than two weeks.

Australian infectious disease expert Paul Armstrong is in Japan, assessing the situation on board the ship and will report to cabinet's national security committee.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out using Christmas Island to quarantine people being evacuated.

"It would take, my advice is, up to a week to ready that facility again and there are quite specific needs we wouldn't be able to accommodate at Christmas Island for the more elderly group of people," he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

"That's not an option we're considering for this operation and we don't have any other operations envisaged at this time."

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Seventy more people on board were confirmed to have the virus on Sunday, bringing the number of cases from the ship to 355, with 16 of them Australians.

Those who tested positive for the virus are being treated onshore in Japan.

Americans on board the Diamond Princess were being flown to the US on chartered planes from Sunday, while authorities in Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy have announced flights home for their citizens.

The Australians on board must pass a coronavirus test before they can be brought home and elderly people will be given priority in the evacuation.

Personnel in protective gear walk towards the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal
Personnel in protective gear walk towards the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal.
AAP

More than 240 people are preparing to leave Christmas Island on Monday after completing a two-week stint in quarantine.

Mr Morrison thanked the group for accepting the period in good faith.

"Some of the letters we're seen come out of there in recent days have just been lovely," he said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Dr Armstrong's advice would be crucial to the government's next move on the cruise ship.

"If his advice is that there has been in any way a secondary round of infections, and obviously the presumption is that's the case, then we're looking to work with Qantas to bring these people home," he told the Seven Network.

The Diamond Princess anchored in Japan. The virus-hit cruise ship accounted for 355 people who have been infected with the disease.
The Diamond Princess anchored in Japan. The virus-hit cruise ship accounted for 355 people who have been infected with the disease.
AAP

Some on the ship have raised the prospect of refusing to join any Australian evacuation, in the hope they can leave the ship as early as Friday when their existing quarantine period expires.

Of the 15 coronavirus cases in Australia, eight have recovered and the remaining seven are stable.

In China, the total number of people infected by the virus passed 70,000 on Monday, with the number of deaths now at 1,765.

About 380 US passengers get on this bus to go to Haneda International Airport.
About 380 US passengers get on this bus to go to Haneda International Airport.
AAP

 

 

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