Jason Gatewood, Tokyo


At this hour, one of two charter flights ferrying Americans back Stateside from the stricken cruiseship Diamond Princess has touched down at Travis AFB in California, with the other flight headed to Lackland AFB in Texas. Once there, the passengers will spend another 14 days at the military bases in quarantine, meaning they will have spent upwards of a month in isolation because of the virus.

Japanese Self-Defense troops helped ferry the 340 passengers from the vessel docked at Daikoku Pier in Yohohama just south of Tokyo, to Haneda Airport located about 15 minutes away aboard 14 buses. The US State Department later confirmed 14 of the evacuees had contracted COVID-19 coronavirus but was allowed onto planes because they showed none of the symptoms.

Austrailia and New Zealand have both added that they will charter a flight for some 200 of their citizens aboard that will depart sometime Wednesday. The governments of Hong Kong, Canada, South Korea and Italy are all making plans to repatriate their citizens from the vessel at this hour.

Some Americans decided to stay aboard the ship to wait out the Japanese quarantine period, which is set to expire in two days on Wednesday February 17th. Factors such as the additional two week quarantine and taking the charter flight in close quarters were factors in their decisions; however they will still need to wait two weeks outside of the States before being admitted back into the country.

Meanwhile Japanese medical officals confirmed an additional 99 cases aboard the Diamond Princess Monday evening, bringing the count up to 454 cases, which is the largest number outside of China. As of now, out of a total 3,700 passengers and crew, around half have been tested for COVID-19.

In Japan at large, the new virus has creeped into everyday conversations, with advisories coming from schools and workplaces about thorough handwashing and demonstrations being given on how to properly wear a face mask. With the pollen count starting to tick up in the waning weeks of winter, it’s not uncommon to see people wearing sick masks, but this year it is very hard to find them in stock in many retailers.

Just a few hours ago, the ministry of labor was on national TV advising those who have had a fever of 37.5C (99.5F) for longer than 4 days to seek out counsuling and testing for COVID-19, in an effort to prevent a strain on the health system as cases and fears rise. The guideline is there to help those with symptoms understand if and when they should contact a doctor at an appropriate time, states However before now, there was a lack of direction from authorties on what tack to take with those who encounter the virus. Since it is a new illness and symptoms appear like that of a bad cold, most doctors have simply prescribed a round of antibiotics or flu medications and advised bedrest. Since symptoms take roughly 2 weeks to show up, some have tested positive but have no clue how they contracted the virus. One man stated his medical center turned him away since he stated he had no contact with anyone from China nor had been there.

Some doctors and nurses that are treating those that have been evacuated from China are testing positive for COVID-19 and in one case at a hospital 50km west of Tokyo, not admitting new patients until they can clean their facilites and check everyone involved.

Companies are also starting to weigh the idea of letting their employees work from home as well. Japan’s major telecom company NTT says one of its workers was confirmed to have the virus and ordered 14 other employees who worked with the person to telecommute.

Major precautions to prevent the gathering of large crowds are started to be considered as well. For example, the Tokyo Marathon Commission which is in charge of the annual race slated for March 1st has said in leiu of cancelling the event altogether, they will only allow elite runners in the event