Chartered flight set for HK passengers of cruise ship in Japan

February 17, 2020 13:23
Ten more Hong Kong passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama have contracted the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 21. Photo: AFP

The SAR government is arranging a chartered flight to bring home Hong Kong residents quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been forced to dock in Yokohama, Japan for several weeks.

Ten more Hong Kong passengers aboard the vessel have contracted the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), bringing the total to 21, the Security Bureau said.

It has not been announced yet whether all of the Hong Kong passengers will be allowed to board the chartered flight, or only those who have not contracted the disease, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

About 330 Hong Kong residents are aboard the vessel, according to a government press release, citing information from the cruise operator. They include 260 with HKSAR passports and 70 with foreign passports. 

Japanese authorities said a total of 355 passengers on the ship have tested positive for the Covid-19 as of Sunday.

The SAR government will inform the affected Hong Kong residents about the details of their return to Hong Kong, including the date, once the Japanese authorities have confirmed the arrangements, a Security Bureau spokesman said in the government press release.

Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, the passengers will stay at a quarantine center for 14 days as a precautionary measure, the spokesman said.

The flight, which will be free of charge for the passengers, will be dispatched on Wednesday at the earliest.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection's Communicable Disease Branch, said the city's four quarantine centers will be able to accommodate all the returning Hong Kong passengers of the cruise ship.

There are concerns about the risk of transmission among passengers of the chartered flight.

Dr. Andrew Wong Tin-yau, president of the Hong Kong Society for Infectious Diseases, told RTHK's City Forum on Sunday that it is best to arrange people aboard the flight to keep a two-meter distance from each other while those with symptoms should take the seats in the last rows of the plane.

The passengers should also put on masks throughout the flight and pay attention to the hygiene of both hands, Wong said.

He also suggested that they be put in quarantine centers instead of hotels, noting that ventilation is not good in hotels as many of them use central air-conditioning systems and disallow windows to be opened.

As of 8 p.m. on Sunday, the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health said it is investigating another case of Covid-19 infection, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the city to 57.

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