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U.S. to evacuate Americans from Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan

"The aircraft will arrive in Japan the evening of Feb. 16," passengers were told in an email from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
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American passengers quarantined aboard a cruise ship in Japan where scores of people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus are to be evacuated on Sunday, according to an email sent to them by the U.S. embassy in Tokyo.

"The aircraft will arrive in Japan the evening of Feb. 16," the email said. "Buses will move you and your belongings from the ship to the aircraft."

They passengers would "be screened for symptoms and we are working with our Japanese partners to ensure that any symptomatic passengers receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight," the email added.

The plane would land at Travis Air Force Base in California and some passengers would then continue on to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, it said.

"Travelers returning to the United States from high-risk areas are required to undergo quarantine," it said. "Accordingly, you will need to undergo further quarantine of 14 days when you arrive in the United States."

It also warned those who chose not to return would "be unable to return to the United States for a period."

The email added that the "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final determination on this matter."

In a statement released on Feb. 7, the U.S. Department of State said there were 428 U.S. citizens aboard the ship.

As of Friday 218 of the 771 passengers and crew that have been tested are positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19, authorities said. At least 32 of those stricken with the virus are Americans.

An American evacuee of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, told NBC News about a town hall meeting Friday at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

They said the audience was told Diamond Princess passengers will be brought there and quarantined away from the Americans who came from Wuhan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has four experts in Japan, with more expected to arrive in a matter of days, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said.

In China, where the outbreak started and where it continues to wreak havoc, the National Health Commission Friday confirmed 66,492 cases of COVID-19, with the death toll at 1,523.