A government rescue flight for British passengers stuck on coronavirus cruise ship Diamond Princess is due to take off from Tokyo on Friday.
The development came as it was reported that two elderly passengers who had been on the ship have died after contracting the virus.
Japanese broadcaster NHK said they were aged in their eighties and had underlying health conditions.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the evacuation flight and urged Britons stuck on the ship, quarantined in the port of Yokohama since February 3, to get in touch.
In a continued effort to support our #DiamondPrincess guests and crew, our President Jan Swartz personally welcomed those disembarking in Yokohama today. The entire Princess family is with each and every one of you during this time. ❤️ #HangInThereDiamondPrincess pic.twitter.com/KgHANqKScp
— Princess Cruises (@PrincessCruises) February 20, 2020
Only people who are showing no signs of illness will be able to travel, and it is understood they will be quarantined on their return to the UK.
Those who have tested positive will remain in Japan for treatment.
More than 620 people on board Diamond Princess have contracted the virus – it was carrying a total of 3,700 passengers and crew – and there were 74 Britons on board.
Raab said: “We’ve organised an evacuation flight for British nationals on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship to depart Tokyo on Friday.
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“Details have been sent to those who have registered for the flight. We urge other British nationals still seeking to leave to contact us.
“We will continue to support British nationals who wish to stay in Japan.”
The Foreign Office said that British nationals can contact the British Embassy Tokyo on +81 3 5211 1100 and select the option for consular assistance.
Princess Cruises said that approximately 600 passengers were the first to be cleared by the Japanese Ministry of Health and released to disembark the ship yesterday.
“These guests – all being cleared after a COVID-19 (coronavirus) test by the Japanese Ministry of Health – were met in the Yokohama cruise terminal by Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises,” a spokesperson said.
“Several hundred other guests are expected to be cleared today by health officials.”
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