A senior US health official said Sunday that more than 40 Americans on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan have been infected with the deadly coronavirus and would not be a part of an evacuation effort.
"Forty of them have gotten infected," Anthony Fauci, a senior official at the National Institutes for Health said on CBS' Face the Nation show.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Saturday that 400 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship would be evacuated and flown back to the United States where they would face a 14-day quarantine period.
But Fauci said that those confirmed with infections would not be allowed to fly.
"They are not going to go anywhere," he said. "They're going to be in hospitals in Japan."
Asked about the severity of the infected Americans' illness, Fauci said it varied.
"You could be infected and have minimal symptoms, but you still have the possibility of transmitting it to someone else," he said.
"Or you could be infected and have some significant lung disease that would require hospitalization and perhaps even some serious intervention."
He added that anyone showing potential symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, would also not be able to get on evacuation planes.
"If people on the plane start to develop symptoms, they'll be segregated within the plane. So there's a very firm plan with this 747 that is going to take these passengers now who have been there."
A pair of aircraft chartered by the State Department is ready to fly back home Americans evacuated from the ship.
The planes are headed to Travis Air Force Base in California and Kelly Field at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The passengers -- quarantined on the ship -- will be kept in quarantine for 14 days, separate from other travelers who, because they visited China, are isolated at the U.S. bases.
In addition to the U.S., Canada is using a chartered plane to repatriate Canadians from the ship. The Canadians are heading Cornwall, Ontario, to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine, Global Affairs Canada said.
Hong Kong is also planning to send a plane to bring back its nationals from the cruise ship. An estimated 330 Hong Kong residents are on board, the Japan Times reported.
Some American passengers from the cruise ship have indicated they would decline to be evacuated because they were asymptomatic.
But Fauci said everyone who had been on the ship would still be subject to quarantine on their return to the US.
"And the reason for that is that the degree of transmissibility on that cruise ship is essentially akin to being in a hot spot. A lot of transmissibility on that cruise ship," he explained.
More than 1,600 people have died from the novel coronavirus in China since it was first detected in the central city of Wuhan, and five others have died outside China.
The US has enacted a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals who have visited China and quarantine measures for its own citizens returning from the province at the epicenter of the outbreak.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.