Chinese passengers from Diamond Princess cruise ship receive their air tickets at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 20, 2020. The first chartered flight arranged by China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday morning, bringing 106 Hong Kong residents stranded on the novel coronavirus-inflicted Diamond Princess cruise ship back from Japan. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)
HONG KONG, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- The first chartered flight arranged by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday morning, bringing 106 Hong Kong residents stranded on the novel coronavirus-inflicted Diamond Princess cruise ship back from Japan.
The chartered flight landed at the Hong Kong International Airport at around 8:30 a.m. local time. The passengers were taken directly from the airport to a quarantine center in the New Territories by specially-arranged buses to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Another batch of Hong Kong residents are expected to return to Hong Kong on Thursday afternoon on a second chartered flight.
Diamond Princess, initially carrying around 3,700 passengers and crew from more than 50 countries and regions, has been quarantined at the Yokohama Port south of Tokyo since Feb. 5 after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25 tested positive for novel coronavirus.
According to the Japanese government, 621 people have been confirmed for novel coronavirus infection on the vessel as of Wednesday.
Secretary for Security of the HKSAR government John Lee said more than 200 of the altogether 364 Hong Kong residents on board the quarantined ship have expressed willingness to return to Hong Kong by the free chartered flights.
Patients of 55 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection, their 33 close contacts, and those failing to pass the virus test, have to remain in Japan for treatment or further quarantine, Lee said.
The HKSAR government announced earlier this week to arrange at least two chartered flights to bring back the Hong Kong residents on the ship. Two batches of HKSAR government officers have been sent to Japan to join the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Tokyo and the Chinese Embassy in Japan for the operation.
Lee said that the operation has received support from the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR, the Chinese Embassy in Japan, relevant departments of the HKSAR government and Cathay Pacific.
Director of Immigration of the HKSAR government Erick Tsang, who led an advance team of the HKSAR government officers to Japan on Monday to prepare for the operation, said that thanks to the assistance by the Chinese Embassy in Japan the Hong Kong residents were taken to Tokyo's Haneda Airport by buses at a time when it was difficult to rent buses in Tokyo.