18/02/2020 8:37 AM AEDT | Updated 18/02/2020 8:39 AM AEDT

Australia To Evacuate More Than 200 Citizens From Cruise Ship Quarantined At Japan Port

Meanwhile the first group of Wuhan evacuees have left quarantine on Christmas Island.

Tomohiro Ohsumi via Getty Images
Evacuees look out from a bus as they arrive at Haneda airport on February 17, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Australia will evacuate more than 200 of citizens onboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship being held under quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Morrison said the passengers will be taken to the top end of the Northern Territory, where they will be required to be quarantined for another 14 days.

The Diamond Princess, cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama on February 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus.

More than 350 passengers onboard the Diamond Princess have tested positive for coronavirus, including 24 Australians.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 15 : Passengers, wearing mask against the coronavirus, are seen on the deck and balconies of Diamond Princess cruise ship docked and in quarantine at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohma, Japan on February 15, 2020. Japan still continues to report several case of people infected by the coronavirus Covid-19 since the start of outbreak as well as on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama Bay for around 15 days. On February 15, during a press conference, Japan's Health Minister said that 67 more people on board of the cruise ship have been infected. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“For those more than 200 Australians who will be returning to Australia, we are going to have to require a further 14-day quarantine period to be put in place on their return to Darwin,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

Morrison also said space on the Qantas plane will be provided for an unspecified number of New Zealand citizens on the cruise ship.

Those passengers will be transferred to New Zealand when they arrive in Darwin, Morrison said.

Despite passengers’ spending two weeks confined to their cabins, some of which were windowless, Australian health officials said a further quarantine period was necessary.

“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,” said Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer.

Meanwhile, Morrison announced on Monday the first group of Australians and permanent residents evacuated from Wuhan to Christmas Island would be allowed to go home. 

“I’d like to thank them for their patience and understanding as we work to keep Australians safe during this outbreak,” he said in a Tweet.

“Thank you also to all the others involved in the operation. The next group of Australians on Christmas Island are due to head home later this week.”


Reporting by Colin Packham.