More than 200 Australians stranded on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan will be flown back to Australia this week - but will be sent into a further two week quarantine in Darwin.
An Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) is scheduled to depart this evening and will aim at collecting and returning all 209 people stranded off the coast of Japan on the Diamond Princes cruise ship.
"They've all been in quarantine for 14 days, they've all been doing the right thing and none of them have contracted the virus," Professor Diane Stephens, one of the team overseeing the project told media this afternoon.
"We are bringing these people home and giving them the opportunity to be quarantined in a safe place so we can get them back to their families."
The 209 evacuees will undergo an extensive screening process that involves clinical testing and checking for any signs of coronavirus infection before they will be allowed back into the Australian population.
Passengers were also ordered to spend an extra two weeks on the ship after a man who was later confirmed to have the virus got off in Hong Kong.
But despite that, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they'll be sent to the Howard Springs facility in Darwin.
"We are fighting for an assisted departure flight from Japan to Australia on this Wednesday," he said.
"But because of the nature of the quarantine not being able to be assured, for those more than 200 Australians who will be returning to Australia, we are going to have to require a further 14 days quarantine period to be put in place on their return to Darwin where they will be accommodated at the Howard Springs facility.
"It's frustrating and unfortunate but it is absolutely necessary to make sure we put the measures in place that have been so effective in containing the spread of this virus."
The AUSMAT team are flying out this evening and aim to leave Japan with the 209 Australians on Wednesday.
Passengers won't have to pay for their flight.
The Prime Minister said Darwin was chosen due to the proximity to hospitals.
And Christmas Island is still being cleared of passengers evacuated from Wuhan in China.
Australian Government Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said similar action is being taken by the US and Canada, who also arranged for passengers to get home.
"The Australians who have been quarantined over the last 12 days, many of them have done everything that they have been asked to do and they are probably wondering why we are imposing this extra requirement," he said.
"We are not quite sure why there have been ongoing infections, but given there has been recent cases, we cannot be absolutely sure that any of the currently well people on the ship who are coming home on Wednesday are not carrying the virus.
"We cannot be sure. And if we cannot be sure we have to take precautions."
The decision was made after Australian infectious disease experts flew to Yokohama, to assess the situation on board the ship, where passengers were mainly confined to their cabins.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne, said more than 20 Australians who have contracted the virus have been treated in Japanese hospitals.
Last week, a Melbourne woman made an emotional plea for the Australian government to bring her home after being stranded in Japan with the virus.
Speaking from her hospital bed to 9News, the woman, known only as Bianca, held back tears as she begged for Australian authorities to give her answers on when she could return home.
The 21-year-old tested positive to coronavirus while on a family holiday on the ship.
The family-of-four were then forced to disembark the ship and be quarantined in hospital two hours from the port of Yokohama.
She told 9News the virus felt like she "had a cold".
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-cruise-ship-diamond-princess-japan-passengers-to-be-flown-home-quarantine/258a4c0f-4323-45f6-a8e6-622457767372