TOKYO (AP) — A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America.
But they will have to spend another quarantine period at U.S. military facilities to make sure they don’t have the new virus that’s been sweeping across Asia.
The U.S. Embassy says Washington is flying chartered planes to Japan to evacuate Americans because the passengers are now at a high risk of exposure to the virus.
Some Americans disembarked Sunday night and boarded buses to take them to the airport.
They will be flown to Travis Air Force Base in California, with some continuing to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
More than 100 Germans evacuated from the hard-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak, were set to end their prescribed 14-day quarantine period on Sunday.
They have been kept isolated at a military base in the southern town of Germersheim. None of them have tested positive for the disease, according to the German news agency DPA.
The viral outbreak that emerged in China has infected more than 69,000 people globally, killing 1,670.
Italy announced Sunday it will send a plane to Japan to bring back the 35 Italians aboard the Diamond Princess.
Hundreds of people in the United States and thousands around the world are in quarantine at home as authorities buy time to prepare for a possible pandemic.
Attention has focused on quarantined cruise ships and evacuees housed on U.S. air bases. But those in home quarantine also play a crucial role in slowing the spread of a new virus.
With no vaccine or medicines to prevent the disease, the best tool that health authorities have is urging travelers from China to stay home and monitor their symptoms.
Keeping those at home in quarantine for two weeks can mean delivering groceries or providing phone counseling.
A recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that has been published by state media indicates for the first time that he was leading the response to a new virus outbreak from early on in the crisis.
The publication of the Feb. 3 speech was an apparent attempt to demonstrate the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the beginning.
It also opens Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.
China on Sunday reported a drop in new virus cases for the third straight day.
The National Health Commission says there were 2,009 new cases in mainland China, bringing the total to 68,500. The death toll topped 1,600.
Mainland China has reported a slight upturn in new virus cases and an increase by 105 in deaths caused by the illness for a total of 1,770 since the outbreak began.
The new number of 2,048 cases came after three days of declines but was up by just 39 cases from the previous day’s figure.
Another 10,844 have recovered from COVID-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus, and have been discharged from hospitals.
Millions of Chinese workers and entrepreneurs are bearing the rising costs of an anti-virus campaign that has shut down large sections of the economy.
The government has imposed restrictions nationwide that have stalled travel and sales of real estate and autos.
The mounting toll threatens to become a political liability for the ruling Communist Party.
Local officials have been told to get back to business but are moving cautiously.
Economists say even if auto manufacturing and other industries resume operations as planned, they won’t be back to normal until at least mid-March.