On February 16, the U.S. State Department facilitated the voluntary repatriation of over 300 U.S. citizens and their immediate family members who had been passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Passengers were evaluated by medical personnel from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and all were deemed asymptomatic and fit to fly before being processed for evacuation.
During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, U.S. officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19. These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols. After consultation with HHS officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process. During the flights, these individuals will continue to be isolated from the other passengers. These flights departed Japan at approximately 4:30 PM Eastern time on February 16 and will arrive in the United States later this morning. All passengers are being closely monitored by medical professionals throughout the flight, and any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated.
Upon landing in the United States, passengers will deplane at either Travis AFB or Joint Base San Antonio and will remain under quarantine for 14 days. Passengers that develop symptoms in flight and those with positive test results will remain isolated on the flights and will be transported to an appropriate location for continued isolation and care.
Every precaution to ensure proper isolation and community protection measures are being taken, driven by the most up-to-date risk assessments by U.S. health authorities. We continue all possible efforts to protect the welfare of U.S. citizens. We encourage U.S. citizens considering international travel to continue to review State Department Travel Advisories at Travel.State.gov, and to closely monitor and follow the guidance of the CDC and local health authorities.