One more Hongkonger stranded on the coronavirus-stricken cruise liner in Japan has been infected, bringing the total number of locals with Covid-19 on the ship to 66, while at least 120 others have indicated they would board the next government-chartered flight home.
After 18 days of quarantine since February 4, some 30 Hongkongers among 150 still on the Diamond Princess remained hesitant about taking the arranged flights, according to city officials.
On Friday, Hong Kong cruise passengers who tested negative were expected to leave the ship at around noon Japan time, or 11am Hong Kong time, according to a notice from the cruise operator to passengers, seen by the Post.
In a separate message from Hong Kong's Immigration Department to passengers, they were told coaches would be arranged for transport to Tokyo's Haneda Airport for a chartered flight departing at 6pm local time.
Confirming that one more Hongkonger on the cruise had contracted Covid-19, security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said in the morning: "Now 150 Hong Kong residents are still on the cruise " 120 of them have already clearly stated that they would take our chartered flight."
No further details have been released on the latest case.
It was not immediately clear if all 120 Hongkongers will be on the evening flight, as Lee also said authorities were planning a third flight out.
A government source said they are still finalising the passenger list. "We hope to take as many as possible."
Officials previously said residents who opted to return on their own would still be quarantined upon their return.
On Thursday, one of the four Hongkongers who refused to be airlifted was seen enjoying the scene in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's busiest hubs. The move sparked a social media backlash, with online users accusing her of threatening public health.
Meanwhile, on the ship, stranded Hong Kong dentist Alan Lam said he and his wife had received a health certification from Japanese authorities on Friday morning, clearing them of infection.
He said passengers were asked in a notice from Hong Kong's Immigration Department to pack up at 10am Japan time and wait for instructions from the cruise company to disembark for the flight home.
Lam said there were 11 coaches waiting outside the cruise liner to take them to the airport.
"We packed our luggage two days ago," Lam said. "It's just that we were not allowed to disembark.
"I hope to leave the ship as soon as possible to avoid infections," he said. "But during our journey back to Hong Kong, we also need to be careful when we are on the bus and in the aircraft."
He believed that all Hong Kong passengers would leave the ship on Friday, but a "small number" of them would not take the chartered flight.
Fearing infection, the couple had been living on their own snacks mailed by friends for more than 10 days without leaving their room at all, except on Wednesday night when they went out to wait in line for an hour hoping to disembark. It turned out to be a miscommunication.
So far, 66 Hongkongers on the cruise have been infected, and 41 were considered as close contacts.
Lee said the Department of Health was designing a plan to bring the close contacts home.
On Thursday, 106 Hongkongers on the cruise flew back on the first chartered flight. All were sent to Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan for a 14-day quarantine.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said tests for the virus had been conducted on this group and results were pending.
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