February 18 ------ More than 300 Americans rescued from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan because of the new coronavirus arrived back in the US Monday for two more weeks of medical seclusion, as concern rose over passengers who dispersed around the globe after leaving another ship in Cambodia. The COVID-19 virus death toll exceeds 1,700 in China, where it has infected more than 70,500. Elsewhere, hundreds more have been infected and the virus has sparked panic buying, economic jitters as well as the cancellation of high-profile sporting and cultural events.
With fresh cases emerging daily in Japan, the government has advised citizens to avoid mass gatherings, and has canceled public events — including celebrations in central Tokyo for the Emperor’s birthday and the amateur portion of the city marathon, affecting around 38,000 runners. In the Chinese capital Beijing, municipal authorities have ordered citizens arriving in the city to self-quarantine for 14 days, the presumed incubation period of the virus.
The first US flight touched down at Travis Air Force Base in California shortly before midnight Sunday, followed by the second early Monday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Before they boarded the flights, US officials were informed that 14 of the passengers tested days earlier had received positive results. Authorities allowed them to fly but isolated them from other passengers in a “special containment area”.
US officials deemed 13 of the cases “high risk” for COVID-19 and sent them to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for treatment and re-testing. All repatriated passengers must undergo a two-week quarantine period on US soil. One American traveler, Sarah Arana, told AFP before leaving the ship that she was ready to go because a proper quarantine was needed. “This was not it,” she said.