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(2nd LD) S. Korean presidential plane arrives back from Japan with 7 evacuees aboard

All News 07:03 February 19, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead, dateline; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean presidential plane with six nationals and a Japanese spouse onboard arrived back from Japan on Wednesday, completing the mission to evacuate them from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship.

The Air Force VCN-235 arrived at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul at 6:27 a.m. after departing from Tokyo's Haneda Airport at 2:23 a.m.

The evacuees, excluding the Japanese, were among 14 South Koreans who were aboard the Diamond Princess. The ship has been quarantined at the port in Yokohama since an outbreak of the COVID-19 aboard the ship early this month.

No South Koreans on the ship have contracted the disease.

Upon arrival, they are to go through health checks before being placed into isolation for 14 days, the virus' incubation period, at a facility in the quarantine office of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.

A South Korean presidential plane awaits takeoff at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Feb. 19, 2020. The plane was sent to evacuate six South Koreans and a Japanese spouse from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship docked at Yokohama. (Yonhap)

According to Japanese news reports, 88 people on the vessel were diagnosed with the virus on Tuesday, bringing the total there to 542.

The eight South Koreans still aboard the ship are expected to disembark later this week if they test negative.

South Korea has reported 31 cases of the coronavirus, with no fatalities.

In late January and early this month, South Korea sent three planes to Wuhan, China -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- to evacuate some 800 South Koreans and their family members.

The evacuees have been quarantined at facilities in central South Korea.

The latest batch will be sent to a facility run by Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to South Korea.

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