First passengers freed from coronavirus cruise Hundreds of Aussies with bags packed for Darwin flight

| 19.02,20. 05:25 PM |


First passengers freed from coronavirus cruise Hundreds of Aussies with bags packed for Darwin flight



About 200 Australians aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess are preparing to be flown to Darwin today. (Yomiuri Shimbun/AP) (AAP)


Thousands of people trapped on a cruise ship in Japan, including 200 Australians, have been released, as the Japanese Government deems two-week quarantine period onboard to be sufficient against coronavirus infection.
Passengers were released from the Diamond Princess today and moved onto Japan's national train network.
About 200 Australians aboard the Diamond Princess have their bag packed and are due to fly out tonight for Australian soil.
When they arrive, they will be evacuated to a former workers' site near Darwin to begin another two-week isolation period to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
Fifteen Australian passengers have declined the offer to be flown home.
Many of them are relatives of the 24 Aussies on the ship that tested positive for the virus and are being treated in Japan.
The evacuated passengers will be tested for the deadly virus five times before bunkering down at the Howard Springs facility.
One of the evacuees, Cathy Pfeffer - who has been quarantined aboard the ship with her granddaughter Tehya - told Today she was looking forward to returning to Australia after being away for six weeks.
"It's going to be great to get on to Australian soil again," she said.
Ms Pfeffer backed the stringent medical screening for evacuated passengers.
"I think that's really, really necessary because we've been on the ship for 14 days, I was tested last Friday, Tehya was tested two days ago.
"That's the only testing we've actually had while we've been on the ship."
Ms Pfeffer, who celebrated her 70th birthday aboard the ship, said the Diamond Princess's crew had treated them well.
"They've been supportive. Kept us up to date with everything. They've been very transparent."
The cruise liner - which has had more than 500 cases confirmed, including at least 16 Australians - has been quarantined at the port of Yokohama for more than two weeks.
The Australian evacuees are facing extra time in quarantine due to the number of recent cases on the ship.
Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says the evacuees will have access to medical assistance 24/7.
"I can be absolutely confident that they will be very well looked after here, in much better facilities than being in a tiny cabin on a cruise ship," Professor Murphy said in Darwin.
The cruise ship evacuees will be kept separate from the hundreds of people already in isolation at the facility, who were evacuated from the Chinese epicentre of the virus.
Prof. Murphy has sought to alleviate concerns in the Darwin community, saying they will be completely protected from the disease.
Today's flight will also include New Zealanders, who will be transferred home after landing in Darwin.
Cabin crew of the Qantas flight will be subject to two weeks of home quarantine after returning from the rescue mission.
Meanwhile, the 36 people remaining on Christmas Island are also preparing to fly home today, after the majority of the quarantined group returned to the mainland on Monday.
After the final group leaves, the facility will be readied for the possibility of more Australians facing the two-week isolation period.
The federal government has put $2 million towards finding a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
There have been 15 cases of the virus in Australia, with eight people now recovered and the rest in a stable condition.
There are now more than 72,000 cases worldwide, with 1868 reported deaths.

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