Cruise ship virus evacuees on their way to Darwin
MORE than 200 Australians who have been aboard a coronavirus-hit cruise ship near Tokyo are expected to touch down in Darwin early this morning.
The Australian and New Zealand passengers aboard the Diamond Princess are expected to arrive at 8.30am.
Once cleared through RAAF Base Darwin and given masks and blue protective gowns they will spend the next 14 days at Howard Springs in quarantine.
Hundreds of people who have tested negative and met a set of other conditions were allowed to disembark in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Concerns have been raised that allowing these passengers to disembark and use Yokohama public buses to train stations and taxi ranks presented a risk.
University of New South Wales infectious disease specialist Professor Raina MacIntyre warned that it increased the risk of a local outbreak.
"Given the increasing number of infections on the ship, we should assume there was ongoing exposure to the virus," she said, highlighting a finding that 70 per cent of positive tests from those on board come from people without symptoms.
Foreign governments are stepping in after the failure of a quarantine order that was placed on the ship by Japan.
About 550 of 3711 passengers and crew have contracted coronavirus so far.
People who tested positive, including 36 Australians, are being treated at hospitals onshore.
The United States evacuated 328 of its Diamond Princess passengers on Monday and a South Korean charter flight took a small group on Wednesday.
Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Israel are also sending planes.
About 180 Australians who agreed to the evacuation were visited in their cabins on Wednesday for pre-flight screening.
The new evacuees to Darwin will be kept separate to the 266 people who had been flown out of Wuhan via Christmas Island on February 9.
Those earlier evacuees will be released from quarantine on Sunday.
"We will be flying the people out for free," a Qantas spokesman told the NT News.
"Everyone will be flown to the major city airport nearest to where their home is."
Professor Len Notaras, the executive director of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, which co-ordinates AUSMAT deployments, said all 266 Wuhan evacuees had been given the all-clear.
There are 77 children among the evacuees, including 11 infants.
"They will be flying on normal domestic flights on Sunday," Prof Notaras said.
"We flew 36 people home from Christmas Island (on Wednesday) and those in Darwin from the February 9 flight are good to go home."