TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday it is studying the feasibility of sending a charter flight to bring home Taiwanese on the Diamond Princess cruise liner, currently in quarantine off the Japanese city of Yokohama after several passengers were found to have contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also serves as Minister of Health and Welfare, told reporters that Taiwan is in talks with the Japanese authorities about the possibility of bringing home the 20 Taiwanese passengers and two Taiwanese crew members still on the ship.
At a news conference, Chen said a charter flight could be dispatched to Japan.
On Feb. 2, an 80-year-old passenger, who had disembarked in Hong Kong, was confirmed to have the coronavirus, and the cruise liner returned to Yokohama one day ahead of schedule.
Since then, the Diamond Princess has been quarantined off Yokohama with about 3,700 people on board.
As of Saturday, 285 had tested positive for the COVID-19, originally identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, according to data from Japan’s Department of Health, up 67 from a day earlier.
The 285 confirmed to have contracted the new virus include two Taiwanese passengers.
Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), Deputy Director-General of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said at the same press conference that the two Taiwanese confirmed to have the virus will continue their treatment in Japanese hospitals.
Chen said the Japanese authorities have demonstrated they are dealing with the situation on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, so “we can trust them.”
In response to the possible dispatch of a charter flight to Japan, Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said Saturday that China Airlines, in which the ministry is the largest shareholder, would undertake the mission if necessary.
One female Taiwanese passenger in her 60s was confirmed on Feb. 6 to have the virus and has been hospitalized. According to Taiwan’s representative office in Japan, the woman is in a stable condition.
An 85-year old Taiwanese man, who was suffering nosebleeds and coughing up blood, tested positive for the virus on Friday and was admitted to hospital for treatment where he is also in a stable condition.
The representative office said the man’s son was tested on Thursday to determine whether he has the virus, with the results scheduled to come out Sunday or Monday.
The younger man said if he tests positive for the virus, he hopes to be sent to the hospital where his father is being treated.
The son told CNA in a phone call earlier this week that before his father was hospitalized, he wrote to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Feb. 10 about his deteriorating condition and lack of medical attention, and asked Tsai for help.
The Presidential Office has said that the government will do what it can to help Taiwanese on the cruise ship.