LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — The British government on Tuesday became the latest country to announce it will evacuate its citizens stranded onboard a cruise ship quarantined off Japan because of the new coronavirus.
Britain said it would organize a flight to repatriate its nationals from the Diamond Princess vessel, where more than 450 people have tested positive for COVID-19.
That follows the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and South Korea all saying they will evacuate their citizens from the boat, with more than 300 Americans arriving back on home soil on Monday.
“Given the conditions on board, we are working to organize a flight back to the UK for British nationals on the Diamond Princess as soon as possible,” a British Foreign Office spokesperson said.
“Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements.”
There were more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess when it first arrived in Japan earlier this month and was put under quarantine in waters near Yokohama on February 3.
All those on board have now been tested for the new coronavirus, Japan’s government said Tuesday.
Tokyo has faced criticism for its handling of the situation, with dozens of new infections detected almost daily since the ship arrived.
There are 74 British passengers and crew among them, according to UK media reports, and the government in London has also been criticized for its response.
Some of the British passengers have hit out at being left stranded on the ship while other countries began to organize airlifts of their citizens.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, more than 72,000 people have been infected, the vast majority in China, where the official death toll is nearly 1,900.
© Agence France-Presse