KEY POINTS

  • U.S. government officials are taking heat for allowing 14 Americans infected with Covid-19 to fly back to U.S. on aircraft packed with other uninfected people
  • The 14 tested positive before they boarded the planes
  • They were confined inside a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft

As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted Sunday, some of the 328 seemingly uninfected Americans flown home that same day from Japan after having been quarantined aboard a cruise ship for two weeks have come down with Covid-19.

CDC said 14 of the expatriates tested positive for the coronavirus before boarding the two hastily converted cargo hauling airplanes lacking amenities that flew them directly from Japan to California and Texas. The flight to California took more than nine hours. Both planes have since landed in the U.S.

The U.S. government's decision to allow the 14 infected Americans to share a plane ride for almost half a day with hundreds of uninfected persons is drawing heavy criticism from health authorities, and also from their fellow uninfected passengers shocked at the betrayal.

On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo told the Americans from the quarantined cruise ship, Diamond Princess, no one infected with Covid-19 will be allowed to board any of the two chartered flights to the United States. Inexplicably, those plans were hastily changed after 14 Americans tested positive for Covid-19 just as they were boarding the buses that took them to the airport.

Sources said embassy and U.S. government officials decided to let the infected evacuees, who were asymptomatic (not exhibiting symptoms) at the time, board both flights. Embassy officials claimed the 14 infected Americans were “fit to fly." The 14 were confined inside a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft where they were isolated and monitored.

They will be sent to “an appropriate location for continued isolation and care,” said the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services in a joint statement.

The flap involving passengers aboard the luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess is the latest scandal to wrack this ship and its unfortunate passengers. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted the quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess failed.

"The quarantine process failed," acknowledged Dr. Fauci. "I'd like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don't know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship."

Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on Monday said the number of cases confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess had hit 454.

"As it turned out, that was very ineffective in preventing spread on the ship," said Dr. Fauci to USA Today. "Every hour, another four or five people were being infected."

Diamond Princess was carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew when it set sail February 1 and was quarantined after 10 cases of coronavirus were reported February 4. Some 380 Americans were on the ship.

An American passenger from the Diamond Princess gives a thumbs up to reporters at Haneda Airport in Tokyo before boarding a chartered flight home. Officials said 14 passengers on one flight had tested positive for the coronavirus An American passenger from the Diamond Princess gives a thumbs up to reporters at Haneda Airport in Tokyo before boarding a chartered flight home. Officials said 14 passengers on one flight had tested positive for the coronavirus Photo: AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI