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Evacuate more than 400 American passengers home

Here’s a dark quiz of the day: Outside of China, where is the largest outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that has infected more than 45,000 and killed over 1,100?

Hint: It’s not a country. 

It’s the cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, with more than 400 Americans aboard. The number of passengers infected with the virus increased to 174 on Tuesday, at least 20 of them U.S. citizens.

Ambulances keep pulling up to the dock to take victims away for hospitalization. And the Japanese government, with the blessing of the U.S. State Department, has elected to have the remaining passengers wait out an estimated incubation period of at least another week before they can disembark.

‘We’re American citizens’

“We are in a desperate, desperate stage,” passenger Milena Basso pleaded to Fox News. “We’re American citizens; we just want to get home.”

Here’s an idea: How about the U.S. government make that happen?

We know it can. After all, the State Department has chartered five aircraft to evacuate 800 U.S. citizens from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, charging each of them $1,000 for a seat. Those who elected to come home were confined and monitored at U.S. military installations. The first 195 who arrived were to be released Tuesday after a 14-day quarantine. None are showing symptoms.

Why not offer the more than 400 Americans on the Diamond Princess the same deal?

A State Department spokesman said Tuesday that after consulting with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the department decided the safest plan was the Japanese government’s protocol for requiring passengers to “shelter in place.”

The Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, on Feb. 11, 2020.

So they stay in their cabins, many in a state of high anxiety. Those without balconies are allowed 90 minutes a day on deck as long as they remain a meter away from each other. And this is to continue until Feb. 19, the anticipated end of the quarantine.

Problem is, the new disease has been anything but predictable. In the six weeks since it emerged, it has proved particularly dangerous for older victims. That’s precisely the demography aboard the Diamond Princess, where 80% of the 2,666 passengers are 60 and older and a few hundred are in their 80s and 90s. The Japanese are considering evacuating some of the most elderly.

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