Koreans stuck on cruise ship likely to be repatriated

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Koreans stuck on cruise ship likely to be repatriated

The Korean government said Sunday that it is considering repatriating its nationals aboard a quarantined cruise ship moored off the coast of Japan.

Since the Diamond Princess was quarantined at Yokohama Port earlier this month after confirming an infection of the novel coronavirus, 14 Koreans - nine passengers and five crew members - have remained inside the ship.

The Japanese government announced a plan to release passengers who test negative for the contagious virus from Wednesday.

“Even before Feb. 19, we will go on with plans to bring back our nationals who test negative and want to come to Korea,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a briefing. “We will first check their intention and cooperate with the Japanese government.”

He said the Seoul government will give full support to all Korean passport holders on board even if they do not want to return to Korea.

Currently about 3,400 people from more than 50 countries are aboard the ship, with hundreds of former passengers having disembarked due largely to old age or infection with the novel virus.

Korea on Saturday stepped up efforts to support its 14 citizens aboard a quarantined cruise ship moored off the coast of Japan by sending them food, hygiene products and other commodities and checking their status.

Yoon Hee-chan, the Korean consul general in Yokohama, delivered the second batch of items, including kimchi, instant noodles and soaps, to employees of the ship operator.

“As we have received requests [from the Korean passengers], we have prepared them,” Yoon said. “We plan to provide more to them until Feb. 19, the date when they are scheduled to be released from quarantine.”

Most of the remaining passengers have received necessities individually from their families or acquaintances.

The consul general pointed out that his mission has been checking the 14 Koreans twice a day and that none of them have shown signs of illness.

“The Korean Embassy in Japan and the Consulate General in Yokohama plan to provide consular assistance through such efforts as constantly contacting them and offering conveniences,” he added.

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