Seoul to send presidential jet to evacuate citizens from virus-hit cruise ship off Japan

February 17, 2020

 South Korea is in talks with Japan about its plan to send a presidential jet to evacuate its nationals from a cruise ship stranded at a Japanese port, Seoul officials said Monday.

“The government is in talks with the Japanese government to send a presidential jet to Japan’s Haneda airport on Feb. 18 and bring back South Korean nationals who are on the Diamond Princess anchored at Japan’s Yokohama port and wish to return to the country,” the government said.

The ship has been moored at a pier in Japan’s Yokohama for the past two weeks. More than 400 passengers or crew members of the ship have been reported to be infected with the novel virus, dubbed COVID-19 as of Monday.

There are 14 South Koreans — nine passengers and five crew members — and none of them have been infected, according to officials here.

Seoul earlier said it will find ways to bring home South Korean passengers and crew members should any of them wish to return.

“We cannot say exactly how many will return to South Korea as some of them still have not decided,” a government source said earlier.

Meanwhile, the health ministry said those who return home will be quarantined for at least for two weeks, the believed incubation period of the COVID-19.

“The quarantining of people is deemed necessary and follows similar actions taken by Seoul on South Korean nationals evacuated from Wuhan, China, and their immediate family members” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a press briefing.

The country has airlifted more than 800 South Koreans from Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

About 700 of them have been released after being quarantined for two weeks.