Israeli passengers were finally allowed to leave a cruise ship Thursday where they had spent over two weeks in quarantine off the coast of Japan as the deadly coronavirus steadily spread among those on board, infecting hundreds.
The Israelis were greeted on the dock by a delegation from the embassy in Tokyo, ready to whisk them away from the harbor to the airport where a specially chartered plane was waiting to fly them directly back to the country, Israel’s health and foreign ministries said in a joint statement.
The plane is expected to land Friday morning at Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport, where it will be kept far away from the terminal buildings that generally process arriving passengers.
All those who come in contact with the passengers will be wearing protective equipment. Their luggage will be loaded onto a truck and removed from the airport and then also inspected, Channel 12 television reported.
The plane will return immediately to Asia and its crew will not be allowed to enter Israel while it is being prepared for the flight back.
On Thursday morning, families of passengers were permitted to drop off homemade food and personal items for the passengers in the quarantine area, Channel 13 television news reported.
After arriving in Israel, the 11 passengers will be taken directly to the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv for further health checkups and isolation for two weeks at a location off the main hospital campus, the hospital said in a statement.
The medical team will use sensors and robots and give handheld devices to the quarantined patients in order to minimize staff members’ exposure.
One Israeli passenger was forced to remain on the ship after earlier in the day he was found to have contracted the disease, officially known as COVID-19.
He was the fourth Israeli to test positive for the illness, out of at least 15 Israeli nationals aboard the Diamond Princess ship. Three, who were infected days ago, were already taken to Japanese medical centers where they are being treated and kept in quarantine.
The fourth passenger was also expected to be taken to a local medical center. Channel 12 reported that the man’s wife and brother-in-law, who were also on the ship, were allowed to return to Israel.