Evacuation of Indonesians from Diamond Princess awaits flight slot

Evacuation of Indonesians from Diamond Princess awaits  flight slot

Passengers onboard MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, are seen in Sihanoukville, Cambodia February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (REUTERS/SOE ZEYA TUN)

We have decided to pick them up soon using aircraft. The aircraft has been readied to fly to Japan. We are in the process of negotiating a flight slot
Jakarta (ANTARA) - The evacuation of 68 Indonesian citizens who tested negative for coronavirus (COVID-19) aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan awaits being assigned a flight slot, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said.

"We have decided to pick them up soon using aircraft. The aircraft has been readied to fly to Japan. We are in the process of negotiating a flight slot," Minister Putranto said in the Presidential Palace compound in Jakarta on Thursday.

The Indonesian crew members will be evacuated from the cruise liner using a wide body plane, he said.

The Indonesian government wants to evacuate them from Japan to Indonesia directly without transit, he said.

"We are still negotiating with Japan to get a flight slot. We must secure the flight slot (to evacuate them). The most important thing is that they will be evacuated soon," he said.

The evacuation will be conducted in one or two days' time, after the flight slot has been received, he said.

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The minister noted that all the Indonesians to be evacuated are in good health. Shortly after they arrive in Indonesia, they will be placed under observation.

"They will likely be evacuated to Sebaru Island. We are still discussing whether they will be transported there using a ship. The important thing is using the most convenient method and that crew members pass the health monitoring," he said.

The government had earlier evacuated 188 Indonesians from MV World Dream using Indonesian warship KRI Dr Soeharso. The Indonesians are expected to arrive on Sebaru Island on Friday afternoon to undergo medical monitoring.

Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi stated earlier in the day that two Indonesian crew members from the Diamond Princess cruise ship chose to stay in Japan, while 68 others who tested negative for coronavirus (COVID-19) would soon be evacuated,

"Based on information from the cruise operator, our two citizens opted to stay (in Japan). Once again, it is a voluntary decision to participate in this evacuation," Marsudi noted, following a meeting at the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs.

Some 78 Indonesian crew members were aboard the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that was quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Nine of these Indonesian crew members tested positive for coronavirus, but one of them was already declared free of the virus following medical treatment, she added.

“However, two of them are keen to stay, so we will only evacuate 68 crew members," the minister stated.

The cruise ship had 3,700 passengers and crew onboard from 56 countries and regions when it arrived in Yokohama in February. Most passengers disembarked last week, while some crew members left Japan with the help of their governments.

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