By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - The U.S. said Monday it had facilitated the "voluntary repatriation" of more than 300 American citizens and their families who had been passengers on the coronavirus-infected Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Examined by health officials on Sunday, the passengers "all were deemed asymptomatic and fit to fly before being processed for evacuation," said a statement by the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services.
During the evacuation process, the U.S. official received notice that 14 passengers tested positive for coronavirus, who were then moved to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft, according to the statement.
After consultation with health officials, the State Department allowed the 14 individuals to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process.
Later in the day, the passengers will go to either Travis Air Force Base or Joint Base San Antonio and will remain under quarantine for 14 days, said the statement.
The number of coronavirus cases reached to 454 in the Diamond Princess cruise ship -- which has been quarantined in Yokohama province, south of the Japanese capital of Tokyo -- while the two-week of quarantine period is set to end on Wednesday, according to Japan's news agency Kyodo News.
Around 3,700 passengers and crew from 56 countries and regions were on board the cruise.
The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan in December 2019 and since has spread to more than 20 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Singapore, France, Russia, Spain, and India.
As of Sunday, the death toll in mainland China reached 1,770, with at least 70,548 total cases reported.
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a global health emergency.
According to Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who spoke to The Wall Street Journal recently, it is likely that 40 to 70% of the world's population might be infected by coronavirus within 2020.