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Irish passengers on board cruise ship where 450 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is aware of the case.

Buses carrying US passengers off the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Buses carrying US passengers off the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Image: 平田潤

Updated Feb 17th 2020, 5:07 PM

A NUMBER OF Irish passengers are confirmed to be on a cruise ship in Japan which has over 450 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is liaising closely with other countries regarding the consular needs of its citizens who are currently on board the Diamond Princess. 

99 people have recently tested positive for the virus on the cruise ship off the coast of Japan, bringing the total number of positive cases on board to 454.

The Japanese health ministry declined the confirm the reports immediately. 

The ship is currently moored near Tokyo. Passengers on board have been largely confined to quarters since 5 February with only short and occasional breaks to take air on deck while wearing face masks. 

The two-week quarantine period for the passengers on board will be over on Wednesday. Many countries decided to repatriate their citizens after the huge number of cases on board.  

The US was the first to evacuate its citizens, but Australia, Canada, Italy and Hong Kong have all indicated they will follow suit. 

More than 300 Americans evacuated from from the cruise ship quarantined have now arrived back in the US to begin a further two-week period of medical seclusion.

The first US flight touched down at Travis Air Force Base in California shortly before midnight followed by the second this morning 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”.

Those on board will undergo a further two-week quarantine period on US soil.

“Every precaution to ensure proper isolation and community protection measures are being taken, driven by the most up-to-date risk assessments by US health authorities,” said a joint statement from the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. “We continue all possible efforts to protect the welfare of U.S. citizens.”

“I am happy and ready to go,” American traveler Sarah Arana told AFP before leaving the ship. “We need a proper quarantine. This was not it.”

The latest country to order its citizens evacuated from the ship is Australia, whose more than 200 citizens still on board are to be evacuated on Wednesday. 

1,775 people have died so far from Covid-19, with 71,333 reported cases in total.  47 cases have been confirmed in Europe. 

Outside of China, the biggest cluster of infections is on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 

With reporting by AFP and Stephen McDermott.

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