Aussies On Coronavirus Cruise To Be Flown To Darwin For Quarantine
A boatload of Australians stuck on a ship afflicted by the coronavirus will spend another 14 days in quarantine, with Qantas to fly them from Japan to Darwin.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday that Aussies on the Diamond Princess would face another two weeks in quarantine, after already spending a fortnight longer on the boat than they planned.
The ship, currently anchored off the Japanese city of Yokahama, has been the centre of a coronavirus outbreak, with 454 passengers and crew -- including at least 24 Australians -- infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Various world governments have enacted plans to extricate their own citizens from onboard and bring them home, with strategies outlined by the American, South Korean, Italian and Canadian governments.
Australians on the ship have been wondering if they will get the same treatment, and have complained of not being informed of updates by the federal government.
On Monday, Morrison said Qantas would fly citizens from Japan to Darwin, where they would be transferred to the Howard Springs camp, where other Australians are currently serving out two weeks in quarantine.
Wednesday's flight will also include New Zealanders, who will be transferred home after landing in Darwin. There are already more than 260 Australians in the midst of their two-week quarantine period at the disused work camp.
The rescue mission will occur on Wednesday, with passengers to spend another fortnight in quarantine before being allowed to go home -- add that to the two extra weeks they've already spent on the ship, and that's a month later than some of them expected.
"I understand that those who were onboard will feel very frustrated about this," Morrison said on Monday.
"I am very frustrated about it. But, our first responsibility is is that we have to protect the health and safety of Australians in Australia today."
The PM said people would not have to pay for the flight, if they decided to take up the offer.
"For those who are onboard, we are with you, we are doing everything we can to support you," Morrison said.
"The best thing we can do to help you is to bring you home and so we're going to bring you ensure you are cared for on your return and through the quarantine period."
"I thank the Japanese government for the care and assistance they have provided to those Australians who have been onboard the vessel."
Steve Mitchell, a passenger onboard the ship from Sydney, said he had not been informed of the plan. The first he heard of it was when 10 daily asked for his reaction to Morrison's announcement.
"Not unexpected but totally unreasonable given we've already been in quarantine for 14 days, and tested and found clear," he said.
"I've emailed both Foreign Minister and Health Minister, but of course not a word. I'd have to say I am totally pissed with the Australian Government."
Mitchell said he and his wife, along with other passengers, were "fine" but "feeling mentally drained and fed up with lack of clear information as to what's happening."
"Many of the Australians on board are elderly and suffering other health issues, so are finding this extremely stressful," he said.
Mitchell claimed he and his wife had initially struggled to get the medicine they needed, but that they now had supplies of necessary medication. He said passengers were bored, being confined to their rooms and only a few other parts of the ship, but that they were being kept satisfied with ample food and drink.
"Princess have not quibbled about supplying drinks requested, such as wine, and have supplied soft drinks and bottled water each day. So certainly wouldn't complain too much," he said.
Some Australians already in the Howard Springs quarantine camp will be allowed home on Saturday, after they were evacuated from the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan in China and landed in Australia on February 9.
There are now more than 69,200 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 1670 reported deaths.
There have been 15 cases in Australia, with eight people now recovered and the rest in a stable condition.
Prior to Morrison's announcement an exhausted Melbourne woman stuck on the ship questioned whether people would take up the evacuation offer in the hope they can leave the ship as early as Friday, when their existing quarantine period expires.
Vera Koslova-Fu said she didn't want to go to another facility for 14 days if she had tested negative.
"You need to tell me why I need to have a further 14 days of quarantine if I am tested negative," she told AAP.
Koslova-Fu said she was frustrated at the lack of information.
"We just feel like we're kept in the dark," she said.
More to come.