The number of confirmed coronavirus cases found on the ship, the Diamond Princess, had grown to 355 in total and 55 of those being American citizens. Of the 3,700 passengers there are 400 American passengers on board. Some were evacuated this past Monday. Initially, the American Embassy had thought it best that US citizens stay on board for the 14-day quarantine period, but suddenly changed their minds this past Saturday.
The process of deboarding took several hours and all the evacuees were given N95 respirator masks to wear. Several passengers who had tested positive, but weren’t showing symptoms yet were required to sit in a special area of the plane that was tented and separate from other passengers. Since there wasn’t any overhead luggage space, all carry-ons had to fit under the seats and shipped luggage could not exceed 70 pounds. Passengers were advised to dress warmly and bring their own food.
Once the evacuees reach the US, they’ll be required to participate in a two-week quarantine at an Air Force base either in California or San Antonio. Some individuals chose not to come home on these flights. Officials said that they would not be allowed to come to the US until March 4th, which is two weeks after the remaining passengers are allowed to disembark the ship. Several other countries are looking to evacuate their citizens as well.
Japan currently has the highest recorded number of cases outside mainland China, this is including the cases aboard the Diamond Princess. Currently, there are over 70,500 people worldwide that have been infected and at least 1,770 have died. The majority of both of these have occurred in mainland China. Despite these numbers, Chinese officials have released recent figures that indicate the spread of the coronavirus epidemic has slowed.
The Chinese government’s daily tally of new infections and deaths from the virus has declined steadily since February 12th. This is occurring even as China changed its criteria for diagnosis that prompted a large increase in reported infections and deaths last week. The World Health Organization (WHO) officials said that China’s strict limits on its people’s movements have helped significantly. Over half the country’s population is under some form of limitations with 150 million of the people facing restrictions on leaving their homes. According to the WHO, the lockdown has helped to slow the spread of the virus from the epicenter, Wuhan, to the rest of China by two to three days, and from China to the rest of the world by two to three weeks.
However, it’s important to note that the WHO’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the reduction of cases in China need to “be interpreted very cautiously” because “it’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue.” There is some concern that if the restrictions are relaxed in order to revive the Chinese economy and ease fear, it could lead to a resurgence of infections.