New flight set to go after 106 HK passengers arrive

Top News | Michael Shum 21 Feb 2020

Michael Shum

A second charter flight will depart for Japan later today to evacuate up to 170 Hongkongers from the coronavirus-infected Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The flight had been set to depart Tokyo Haneda Airport at 1.45am this morning and expected to arrive in Hong Kong at around 6am, but was canceled last night.

This came after 106 Hongkongers returned yesterday morning on the first Cathay Pacific charter flight after some people got their health certificates just in time.

The flight was delayed for almost three hours and eventually arrived at Chek Lap Kok at 8.30am. Passengers were sent straight to Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan for a 14-day quarantine.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu brushed off claims that mainlanders were on board the first charter flight.

"All passengers were Hong Kong residents and the government has not received any requests to take non-Hong Kong and Macau residents on board the charter flight, including mainlanders," Lee said at a press briefing.

"If we have capacity, we will consider taking passengers no matter if they are from Macau, mainland or Taiwan. But of course, the priority will always be given to Hong Kong residents."

The SAR has received inquiries from foreign governments and any request will be considered on humanitarian grounds, Lee said.

After admitting the operation to evacuate Hongkongers was complicated, Lee said a third charter flight is being arranged, and the government will persuade some 20 undecided passengers to take that flight.

Lee said a total of 364 Hong Kong residents were on board the Diamond Princess, and among the 106 brought back to Hong Kong on the first charter flight, 88 were Hong Kong passport holders.

As of Wednesday, 55 Hong Kong passengers were confirmed with Covid-19 while 33 others were classified as close contacts of the confirmed patients.

Among those infected is a student from the City University of Hong Kong. The university said one of its students and his family members were confirmed with the virus and are being treated at a hospital in the Nagano prefecture of Japan.

Separately, Japan confirmed 13 more passengers on board the cruise have been infected, taking the total to 634. Among the 13 is a TVB makeup artist.

A Hongkonger told reporters upon arrival in Chek Lap Kok: "I feel so relieved right now being back in Hong Kong. My family was so thrilled after knowing that too."

She added that she stayed in her cabin during the whole isolation period as she was afraid she would be infected. She felt exhausted during the stay on the cruise, and will refrain from taking another cruise anytime soon.

Another passenger expressed her gratitude to the government, saying she believed it spared no effort in assisting them.

While she still has another 14-day quarantine order to serve, she said: "It is reasonable as it could not only safeguard my own health, but also others."

Meanwhile, Chun Yeung Estate, which serves as the quarantine camp for the Diamond Princess evacuees, saw increased security, as riot police were seen patrolling the vicinity.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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