First batch of Hongkongers stranded on virus-struck cruise ship return home

Officials board a Cathay Pacific plane carrying Hongkongers who had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Screengrab via Facebook/RTHK.
Officials board a Cathay Pacific plane carrying Hongkongers who had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Screengrab via Facebook/RTHK.

A chartered plane carrying 106 Hongkongers who spent two weeks quarantined on the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan landed in Hong Kong this morning.

The Cathay Pacific flight landed at 8:30am at Hong Kong International Airport, where officials in protective suits and masks were waiting. The newly returned passengers now face two more weeks of quarantine at the newly-completed Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan.

More than 200 Hongkongers are still in Japan waiting to return, and more flights are expected to take place today.

The passengers, many looking frail and exhausted as they disembarked, were among some 500 passengers allowed off the virus-stricken ship on Wednesday after testing negative for the COVID-19 virus.

In a press conference today, Secretary for Security John Lee said that 55 of the 352 Hong Kong citizens on the cruise have been infected with the virus, and will remain in Japan for treatment, as will about 30 people who had come into close contact with them.

The he added that 16 people had declined to take the chartered flights, and decided to return the city by their own means. About 20 others were undecided.

“I hope they will change their minds and embark on the chartered flight,” Lee said. “I hope they understand that this is for the sake of their wellbeing and their future contacts.”

Meanwhile, the authorities promised a second chartered flight will be arranged for Hongkongers on Thursday night, and a third flight is also in the works.

The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in Yokohama since Feb. 4. As of Wednesday night, 621 of its 3,600 passengers were confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus.

Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said at a press briefing last night that all of the first returnees had tested negative for the coronavirus.

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CITY: HONG KONGCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: HEALTH

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