More on the disembarking passengers from Justin in Tokyo:
Japanese TV showed passengers leaving the ship late on Wednesday morning to board waiting buses. Local health authorities said about 500 passengers were expected to disembark on Wednesday, with around 2,500 others to follow over the next two days.
Only those who tested negative and did not share cabins with infected passengers are being permitted to disembark, amid widening criticism of Japan’s handling of the ship’s quarantine. Anyone who has had contact with an infected passenger will have to undergo 14 more days in quarantine. In addition, the crew will begin a new quarantine when the last passenger has disembarked.
The Diamond Princess has proved a fertile breeding ground for the virus with at least 542 positive cases – making the ship home to the largest cluster of infections outside mainland China.
“NEGATIVE! Me, son, husband, mom and dad! Thank you Lord for protecting us… So emotional now,” tweeted passenger Yardley Wong, who has been cooped up with her six-year-old son.
Those with no symptoms and a negative test received an official certificate saying they posed “no risk of infection of nCoV, as the said person has also presented no symptoms including fever at the time of infection.”
Some in Japan have raised concerns about allowing people from the cruise ship to board flights home or spread out into crowded cities such as Tokyo, saying there was a chance that secondary infections had occurred on the ship during its 14-day quarantine.
Several countries, including Britain, Hong Kong and Australia, appear to have lost patience with the on-board quarantine and have prepared chartered planes to bring back their citizens. More than 300 Americans were flown home on Monday, although 14 of the passengers tested positive during the evacuation. The US government has told Americans who chose to remain on the ship that they will not be allowed back into the country until they have completed another two weeks of quarantine after disembarking.
Early Wednesday, South Korea flew six of its nationals plus a Japanese spouse to Seoul. They will be placed in isolation for 14 days, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Other countries will require repatriated people to undergo another two weeks of quarantine after they return home.