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(3rd LD) S. Korean presidential plane arrives back from Japan with 7 evacuees aboard

All News 09:24 February 19, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES story on transportation of evacuees in paras 4-6; CHANGES photos)

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.

Upon arrival, they went through about an hourlong health check at a business terminal shut off from other general passengers. None of them showed signs of virus symptoms, airport authorities said.

A VCN-235 of the Air Force carrying six South Koreans and a Japanese spouse arrives at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul on Feb. 19, 2020. The plane was sent to Japan to evacuate the seven people from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship docked at Yokohama. (Yonhap)

They were transported to a medical facility at the quarantine office of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. The facility, located near the first terminal of the main gateway to the country, has some 50 negative pressure isolation chambers to house patients with infectious diseases.

The evacuees from Japan will be placed into isolation for 14 days, the virus' incubation period.

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.

A bus carrying the seven evacuees from the quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama leaves Gimpo International Airport to transport them to an isolation facility at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 19, 2020. (Yonhap)


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