Seven Australians who were evacuated from Diamond Princess have tested positive for coronavirus in Darwin.
Five Australian passengers tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, February 22.
Since arrival at Manigurr-Ma, a total of 17 people have shown mild respiratory symptoms and have now been tested after being isolated at the facility.
The latest case is a 57-year-old Queensland woman has mild illness and will remain in isolation overnight at the evacuation centre before being transported back to her home state on a specialised medical retrieval plane tomorrow.
Two others have returned to their home state of Queensland and two to their home state of Victoria for isolation and care. They are all stable and currently only have mild symptoms.
The 164 Australian passengers arrived in Darwin Thursday morning to begin their second two-week quarantine in Howard Springs.
Six people were isolated after presenting minor respiratory symptoms and/or fever on arrival at Darwin airport.
Two of the six people tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. Both remain well and are being housed in a separate isolation unit at the village, according to the statement by chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy.
The medical evacuation of the two infected passengers and their families to their home states is currently being arranged by health authorities.
“Given there was continued evidence of spread of infection on board the Diamond Princess in recent days, the development of some positive cases after return to Australia is not unexpected, despite all of the health screening before departure,” he said in a statement.
There are now 691 coronavirus cases on Diamond Princess, with 57 more people confirmed with the virus just today, NHK reported on February 24.
Japan’s health ministry says 717 passengers have disembarked the Diamond Princess. There were 443 passengers disembarked on Wednesday, 90 per cent are Japanese and 274 on Thursday. There are 450 more people expected to disembark on Friday.
Tests are still being conducted on all remaining 3,100 people on the ship. The results are expected to return in the next few days and passengers will be able to disembark if they test negative for the virus.
24 hours of evacuation for Australian passengers
The charter Qantas Boeing 747 departed Tokyo in the early hours of Thursday morning and arrived here just after eight am, carrying only Australian passengers who have tested negative for the virus.
Overnight, 11 more Australians tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to 47 of 220 Australians originally on board the ship.
Those 47 Australians were not aboard the evacuation flight to Darwin, with authorities saying they will be treated within the Japanese health system, the ABC reported.
“The people who are coming on this flight, though, will have been tested negative by the Japanese,” said Mr Murphy.
Credit: Matthew Smith @mjswhitebread
Infected Australians and family remain in Japan
At least 15 people have failed to sign up for evacuation by Wednesday morning, mostly because they have Australian family in hospital in Japan with coronavirus and don’t want to leave them behind, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, according to reports in Sydney Morning Herald.
“The predominant reason for that is that they are staying, in many cases, with family members who have actually contracted the virus and are receiving medical attention in Japan,” Mr Morrison said.
The Melbourne family of four who was quarantined in an inside cabin is among the group who decided to remain in Japan. Aun Na Tan shared on Twitter that the family was informed that daughter Kaitlyn had tested positive just hours before the flight was due to depart.
As daughter Kaitlyn is still a minor, they have asked for at least one adult to remain, wrote Ms Tan. Two other family members had the option to board the plane but they decided not to be separated.
The Japanese authorities are now finding a hospital that will take all four members of the family. The daughter Kaitlyn will need to be isolated and the rest of the family will need to start a two-week quarantine in the hospital.
The Australian Embassy in Tokyo continues to provide consular support to the remaining Australians in Japan.
Strict testing during the evacuation
Health Minister Greg Hunt said that all Australian passengers who will board today’s flight will be subject to five additional screenings.
“One on the ship, carried out in conjunction between AUSMAT and Japanese authorities, two on the flight, one at RAAF base, and one after they arrive here – at Howard Springs,” Mr Hunt said.
Quarantine in Darwin
Mr Murphy added that the Australian passengers will be held at Howard Springs, separate from the Australian evacuees from Wuhan who have been in quarantine since February 9. Howard Springs is about 30kms from Darwin CBD.
“For the second lot, we are going to quarantine them in a completely separate part of the facility, separated by a fence from the first lot, but again, well away from anyone in the community. Some hundreds of metres away,” Mr Murphy said.
“If someone is found to be positive, they will be taken in a contained ambulance, with proper infection control, to the Royal Darwin Hospital.
“And if they are from interstate and they want to go home, we can medivac them back to their home state if necessary.
“So, they will not stay at the facility at all if they’re suspected or proven to have the virus,” Mr Murphy added.