HONG KONG — A passenger aboard a cruise ship quarantined in Japan because of the coronavirus, has accused the U.S. government of "holding me hostage" ahead of a planned evacuation on Sunday.
Karey Maniscalco told NBC News via Skype that she was being treated like "like a prisoner when I did nothing wrong,” after the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo emailed passengers to tell them that it would disembark American passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and fly them back to the Travis Air Force Base in California.
The ship was placed under quarantine on Feb. 4, and scores of people were subsequently diagnosed with COVID—19, the new name for the respiratory illness.
Now after nearly two weeks of quarantine on the ship, Maniscalco and others face another 14-days of a federal quarantine once they are flown back to the U.S. on flights chartered by the State Department.
Maniscalco said that all the U.S. citizens on the ship were frustrated, but it was particularly upsetting to her as she was self-employed and it had been "detrimental" to her business. "A month of my livelihood's been stolen," she added.
Neither she nor her husband Roger Maniscalco were showing any symptoms, she said, speaking after the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo emailed passengers to tell them about the evacuation plan.
"Buses will move you and your belongings from the ship to the aircraft," it said, adding that 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 plane will land at Travis Air Force Base in California, and some passengers would then continue on to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, it said.
Maniscalco's fellow passenger Melanie Haering was also concerned because her husband John Haering had tested positive with COVID—19 three days ago. She said he was currently being kept in a Tokyo hospital about an hour away from the ship.
As of Saturday, 285 of the 930 passengers and crew who have been tested are positive for the virus, authorities said. At least 32 of those stricken with the virus are American.
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Haering, from Utah, was also frustrated about the lack of communication from the U.S. Embassy, which she said she had called and emailed numerous times about her husband’s situation.
The embassy's email warned passengers that if they chose not to return on the flight, they would be unable to come back into the U.S. for a period of time. It said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would make a final determination on this matter.
Haering said she thought the charter plane would be a relief for some Americans, but she would rather stay in Japan with her husband.
After the email was sent, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said in a statement: “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.”