Two planes carrying Americans from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess have left Japan.
The aircraft chartered by the US government departed Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in the early hours of Monday, Kyodo news agency reported.
There were some 400 Americans on board the ship, which has been held since 3 February due to infections from the new coronavirus which has hit China.
At least 40 US citizens are infected and will be treated in Japan.
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in Japan’s port of Yokohama with some 3,700 passengers and crew on board.
The ship was held after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.
It has the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside China. The Japanese authorities on Sunday said the number of new cases on board the ship had risen by 70 to 355.
The Americans who are infected will receive medical treatment in Japan, Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Face the Nation on CBS.
It is not clear exactly how many are on board the evacuation flights which are expected to take them to Air Force bases.
“If people on the plane start to develop symptoms, they’ll be segregated within the plane,” Dr Fauci said.
Those entering the US will undergo a 14-day quarantine, on top of the time they have already spent confined on the ship.
“And the reason for that,” Dr Fauci added, “is that the degree of transmissibility, on that cruise ship, is essentially akin to being in a hotspot.”
Some of the Americans have declined to be evacuated, preferring to wait until the ship quarantine comes to an end on 19 February.
Passenger Matt Smith, a lawyer, said he would not want to travel on a bus to the plane with possibly infected people.
Other evacuation flights will repatriate residents of Israel, Hong Kong, and Canada.
In the meantime, to assist with relief efforts, Japan’s government has given away 2,000 iPhones to passengers on the ship – one for each cabin.
The smartphones were distributed so people could use an app, created by Japan’s health ministry, which links users with doctors, pharmacists, and mental health counsellors. Phones registered outside of Japan are unable to access the app. (Courtesy BBC)