One hundred and fifty meters above the Pacific, hundreds of American evacuees flew from the cruise ship Diamond Princess coronavirus to the US late on Sunday evening with charter flights from the State Department.
Two planes filled with the coronavirus evacuees will land on American soil in the early hours of Monday, one at Travis AFB in California and one at Kelly AFB in Texas.
Having remained in isolation aboard the Diamond Princess since the ship’s outbreak on February 3, the weary evacuees will spend another 14 days under military quarantine at the two bases, 11 of which the Pentagon has designated for isolation of potential coronavirus cases.
Without risk, US officials installed what looked like portable bio-containment units aboard the two 747 cargo jets without windows.
The 44 Americans of the Diamond Princess who tested positive for coronavirus had to stay in Japan for treatment, and it is possible that the isolation units were present to quarantine any passenger who became symptomatic during the nine to twelve hour flights.
Without risk, US officials installed what looked like portable bio-containment units aboard the two 747 windowless cargo aircraft evacuating Americans from the Diamond Princess in Japan
It is believed that the isolation units were present to quarantine any passenger who became symptomatic during the flights
Nearly 400 Americans decided to leave the ship and take the charter flights from the government back to the US, where they will stay for 14 days under two quarantines at two military bases
Passengers who were on board the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, are preparing for an aircraft chartered by the US government at Haneda Airport in Tokyo Monday
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the transportation and care of coronavirus quarantine patients, did not immediately respond to a request from DailyMail.com about the purpose of the units.
“In cargo plane. You can’t imagine. Crazy or worst dream ever ”, wrote the American evacuee Gay Courter on Facebook after boarding one of the flights at Tokyo International Airport.
“Huge B-747 cargo plane without windows bolted with a few seats. Destination unknown at the moment, “her husband Philip wrote.
Diamond Princess Americans who showed no symptoms were not required to board the evacuation flights, and some refused, furiously, that they would have to spend 14 more days in military quarantine just as the cruise ship quarantine would be lifted on February 19.
“My health is good. And my two-week quarantine is almost over. Why would I want to be put on a bus and a plane with other people they think are infected if I have been isolated from those people for almost two weeks? tweeted Matt Smith, an American lawyer on the ship with his wife.
He described a fellow American passenger standing on her balcony and singing “US, US” while buses arrived to pick them up.
“Of course, contrary to the rules of quarantine, she’s not wearing a face mask and talking to a passenger on the adjoining balcony … And did you want me to get on the bus with her?”
Buses with American passengers aboard the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, seen in the background, leave the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, early Monday. The cruise ship transported nearly 3,500 passengers and crew members
American passengers of the Diamond Princess are seen in charter buses that take them to Haneda Airport on Monday
A bus with American passengers aboard the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo before the passengers board a Kalitta aircraft chartered by the US government
A plane chartered by the US government departs at Haneda airport in Tokyo with American tourists aboard the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama
Kalitta Air 585 is seen PST over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday at 7.45 p.m. It is due to land at Travis AFB at 10.47pm PST
Kalitta Air 581 can be seen over the Pacific at 7:45 pm PST on Sunday, en route to Kelly AFB in Texas
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, warned that everyone from the Diamond Princess who did not take the evacuation flights “is unable to return to the United States for a while,” determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other countries are preparing to remove their citizens from the Diamond Princess, while global concerns about the spread of corona virus and death toll are growing in the Chinese epicenter above 1,700.
More than 70,500 have been infected by the COVID-19 virus throughout China as the world fights to control the outbreak that has caused panic and jitters about the global economic impact.
Outside of China, the largest cluster of infections is on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in front of Yokohama, where coronavirus cases have risen rapidly to 355, despite passengers locked up in their cabins during a 14-day quarantine.
And amid growing criticism of Japanese ship handling, governments are trying to repatriate their citizens, with Canada, Australia, Italy, Israel and Hong Kong ready to follow the leadership of Washington.
Those Americans who chose to leave the Diamond Princess are seen in a chartered evacuation aircraft to fly back to the US.
Phil Courter, an American passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, wears a face mask on a chartered evacuation aircraft to fly back to the United States, at Haneda airport in Japan
Health officials in protective suits are seen as passengers boarding the evacuation flights in Tokyo
In the early hours of Monday morning, a convoy of buses driven by people in protective suits removed American passengers from the ship after an improvised passport check.
There were no health checks at that time, said American passenger Sarah Arana, a 52-year-old medical social worker, who said the US government should have acted “much earlier, in the beginning.”
“I am happy and ready to go,” Arana told AFP before leaving the ship. “We need a good quarantine. This was not it. “
The US embassy in Japan confirmed that two jets had left Japan on their way to the US. Passengers on board were expected to undergo a 14-day quarantine period on American soil.
In China, authorities have quarantined about 56 million people in Hubei and the capital, Wuhan, virtually shutting the province off from the rest of the country in an unprecedented attempt to control the virus.
New cases outside the epicenter have fallen in the last thirteen days. There were 115 new cases outside the central province – dropped sharply from nearly 450 a week ago.
Chinese authorities have pointed to the slowing rise in the number of cases as evidence that their measures are working to stop the spread, even while the death toll increased to 1,770.
But head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that “it is impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take”.
A group of ambulances is waiting at the visitor center at Travis Air Force Base in California, where one of the flights will land
Medical staff was present at Travis AFB Sunday to initiate the 14-day quarantine
And concerns remain about global transmission, especially on cruise ships that appear to have become particularly virulent breeding grounds.
Fear is growing for passengers on the Westerdam cruise ship, all of whom received a clean health letter when they disembarked in Cambodia – a loyal ally of Beijing.
One of the passengers was stopped by authorities in Malaysia at the weekend when she was discovered with a fever and later diagnosed with the virus. There were more than 2,200 passengers and crew on the ship when it docked in Sihanoukville, many of which have now spread throughout the world.
Now that tourism has been damaged and the global supply chains have been disrupted by the virus, experts are worried about the toll it could take on a fragile global economy.
IMF boss Kristalina Georgieva said global growth could be reduced by about 0.1-0.2 percentage points, but emphasized that “there was still a lot of uncertainty.”
Japan, one of the hardest hit countries outside of China, regardless of the Diamond Princess, suffered its biggest economic malaise in more than five years – even before the coronavirus crisis.
The gross domestic product in the world’s third economy contracted by 1.6 percent water in the three months to December – a much greater contraction than economists had feared.