Australia to evacuate 11 Kiwis on ship

The vessel's passengers continued to be tested for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal...
The vessel's passengers continued to be tested for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Australia is stepping in to help 11 New Zealanders still on board the coronavirus-hit cruise ship docked in Japan.

The Kiwi passengers are among thousands who remain on board the Diamond Princess during a 14-day quarantine that is due to finish on Wednesday, if all goes well.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Australia’s assistance in an interview on the Mike Hosking Breakfast programme this morning.

She said she had spoken with her Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, about the evacuation of New Zealanders on the ship.

Ardern said Australia had a plan in place to get its citizens on the ship back home safely. Any evacuation plan would also include getting those 11 Kiwis back home too, she said.

"They haven't confirmed - locked - anything yet. But they have said that if they do, they will bring our 11 New Zealanders home.

"Of course we will then make our own plans to have them relocated from Australia to New Zealand and then deal with public health quarantine issues from here."

Japanese authorities yesterday confirmed there have now been 355 confirmed cases, in total, since the ship docked in Yokohama on February 3.

Among those affected are two New Zealand citizens who have been hospitalised, and 16 Australians. Those who tested positive for the virus are being treated in Japan.

Morrison is considering a plan to evacuate Australians on the Diamond Princess later this week, with a decision to be made as soon as today, The Australian reports.

About 200 Australians are on the ship.

Americans on board the Diamond Princess were being flown to the US on chartered planes from Sunday, while authorities in Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy have announced flights home for their citizens.

Morrison and cabinet are waiting for an Australian infectious disease expert's assessment of the situation on board the ship, The Australian reported.

The Australians on board must pass a coronavirus test before they can be brought home, and elderly people will be given priority in the evacuation.

A plan to fly the evacuees to Darwin to join quarantine facilities where 266 others flown from Wuhan are already staying is understood to be in place, according to News Corp.

Meanwhile more than 200 Australians who were also evacuated from Hubei province in China and who have been quarantined on Christmas Island for two weeks are due to head home on Monday.

In China, the total number of people infected by the virus has risen to more than 68,500, with the number of deaths now at 1665.

- NZ Herald and AAP

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