SAN ANTONIO – A charter flight carrying cruise ship passengers from Japan landed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland overnight, starting the clock on a quarantine period to ensure passengers don’t have the new virus that’s been spreading in Asia.
One flight landed at JBSA-Lackland and another flight landed at Travis Air Force Base in California.
The flight to San Antonio departed Tokyo around 6:40 a.m. JST. and landed in San Antonio Monday around 3:55 a.m. CST. In total, the trip was expected to take 10 hours and 46 minutes, according to the Kalitta Air website, but instead took 12 hours and eight minutes.
Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.
The U.S. said it arranged the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the virus. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cuts short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship Feb. 5.
The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmed they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they did not have symptoms. They were being isolated separately from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday that an infected person who shows minimal symptoms could still pass the virus to someone else.
After arriving in the U.S., all of the passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks. The Department of Defense previously announced that the availability of the quarantine zone at JBSA-Lackland has been extended through mid-March.
Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights of passengers. Other governments, including Canada and Hong Kong, also will require the passengers to undergo a second 14-day quarantine.
Japan on Monday announced another 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship’s total number of cases to 454. Overall, Japan has 419 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death. The United States has confirmed 15 cases within the country. Separately, one U.S. citizen died in China.
We’ll bring more updates as they become available.