A senior US health official said on Sunday that more than 40 US citizens on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan were infected with coronavirus and would not be a part of an evacuation effort. ‘Forty of them have gotten infected,’ Anthony Fauci, a senior official at the National Institutes for Health said on CBS’ Face the Nation show.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that 400 US citizens on the Diamond Princess cruise ship would be evacuated and flown back to the United States where they would face a 14-day quarantine period. But Fauci said that those confirmed with infections would not be allowed to fly.
‘They are not going to go anywhere,’ he said. ‘They’re going to be in hospitals in Japan.’ Asked about the severity of the infected US people’s illness, Fauci said it varied. ‘You could be infected and have minimal symptoms, but you still have the possibility of transmitting it to someone else,’ he said.
‘Or you could be infected and have some significant lung disease that would require hospitalisation and perhaps even some serious intervention.’ He added that anyone showing potential symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, would also not be able to get on evacuation planes.
‘If people on the plane start to develop symptoms, they’ll be segregated within the plane. So there’s a very firm plan with this 747 that is going to take these passengers now who have been there.’ Some US passengers from the cruise ship have indicated they would decline to be evacuated because they were asymptomatic.
But Fauci said everyone who had been on the ship would still be subject to quarantine on their return to the United States. ‘And the reason for that is that the degree of transmissibility on that cruise ship is essentially akin to being in a hot spot. A lot of transmissibility on that cruise ship,’ he explained.
More than 1,600 people have died from the novel coronavirus in China since it was first detected in the central city of Wuhan, and five others have died outside China. The United States has enacted a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals who have visited China and quarantine measures for its own citizens returning from the province at the epicentre of the outbreak.