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Americans from coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan flown back to U.S.

Posted at 9:02 AM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 11:03:08-05

The first of two planes carrying hundreds of Americans taken off a quarantined cruise ship in Japan arrived at Travis Air Force Base in California late Sunday night. The other plane carrying evacuees from the Diamond Princess ship, which remains quarantined after an outbreak on board of the deadly new coronavirus, landed several hours later, early Monday morning at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Japan's Defense Minister tweeted early Monday that Japanese troops had helped move about 340 U.S. nationals from the ship at Yokahama port to Tokyo's Haneda airport to board the flights.

The U.S. government confirmed at least 14 Americans on the U.S.-government chartered planes had tested positive for the new COVID-19 disease just before departing Japan. There were kept in isolation during the long flight home and were to be taken for treatment upon arrival. All the other passengers — who have already spent almost two weeks quarantined on the ship — were facing another two-week quarantine at the Travis and Lackland military bases.

Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights to bring home passengers from the stricken cruise. Japanese officials said another 70 infections were confirmed on the Diamond Princess, which is owned by Florida-based Carnival Corp. Hundreds of others on board have been diagnosed with the virus.

The World Health Organization put the global death toll from the virus as of Sunday at 1,669, all but three in China, and said there were 51,857 lab-confirmed cases, all but about 700 in China. Chinese authorities have reported 70,548 cases and about 100 more deaths, but those figures include cases diagnosed using less-certain clinical tests that the WHO doesn't count.