The United States health authorities have imposed travel restrictions on all passengers and crew who were on board a coronavirus-hit cruise ship off Japan, preventing them from entering the country.
This include more than 100 U.S. citizens quarantined on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship or in hospitals in Japan for treatment for the deadly virus. They are among 624 passengers and crew in the ship who have tested positive for the virus, representing the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside China.
They have been confined to the vessel which is in quarantine in the Japanese port city of Yokohama since February 3 carrying passengers from more than 50 countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said quarantine measures by the Government of Japan may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship.
CDC said it believes the rate of new infections on board, especially among those without symptoms, represents an ongoing risk. “Therefore, to protect the health of the American public, all passengers and crew of the ship have been placed under travel restrictions, preventing them from returning to the United States for at least 14 days after they had left the Diamond Princess”.
CDC made it clear that after disembarkation from the Diamond Princess, these passengers and crew will be required to wait 14 days without having symptoms or a positive coronavirus test result before they are permitted to board flights to the United States.
The federal health agency expressed concern that because of their high-risk exposure, there may be additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the remaining passengers on board the Diamond Princess.
Hundreds of passengers who tested negative for the virus started leaving the ship, with more expected to leave in coming days.
BBC quoted Japanese health expert Kentaro Iwata as saying after visiting Diamond Princess that the situation on board was “completely chaotic”, with measures inadequate to prevent the infected inmates of the cruise from mingling with the healthy passengers.
The first batch of more than 300 U.S. citizens and their immediate family members who were on board the cruise ship were flown back to the United States Monday.
Meanwhile, the overall death toll from COVID-19 crossed 2,000 people on Wednesday. Six of these deaths occurred outside China.
More than 75,000 cases of infection, including over 1,000 cases outside mainland China, have been reported so far.
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