(CNN)The US plan to evacuate Americans and their families from the Diamond Princess cruise ship appears, on its face, to be the case of a powerful government coming to the aide of its most vulnerable citizens.
But the decision has prompted anger from some exhausted passengers, who believe the move could actually set back their ability to return to normal life — just as that option was within their grasp.
Thousands of people have been stuck in their cabins under mandatory quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess, which is docked off the Japanese port city of Yokohama, since February 3. With 356 confirmed cases of coronavirus on board, 70 of which were announced Sunday, the ship has the largest concentration of novel coronavirus cases outside mainland China. On February 19, the controversial quarantine period was set to finally end.
Until Saturday, the US government seemed on board with that plan. The consensus among government agencies, which had been communicated to the more than 400 Americans aboard, was that remaining on the ship for the quarantine period was the best course of action.
Most passengers weren’t thrilled but accepted the plan.
After the quarantine, virus-free passengers were told they could take commercial flights back to the US.
Then came the email.
On Saturday afternoon, the US Embassy in Tokyo sent a notice to Americans on board the Diamond Princess laying out plans to evacuate nearly 400 Americans back home.
Once there, another 14 days of mandatory quarantine would begin. Anyone who chose not to get on the flight would have to wait another 14 days in Japan to ensure they were symptom-free before returning to the US.
That decision has prompted anger among the American passengers, with many demanding answers to two simple questions about the US response: Why did the American government wait so long to make the about-face decision? What prompted such a dramatic shift in US policy?
On February 18, the Japanese government plans to begin testing all those who remain on board for the virus. Results should be provided within three days. From February 21, staggered disembarkations would begin.
But American passengers who are evacuated will not be tested.
“From tragedy to comedy to farce,” tweeted American passenger Matthew Smith, pulling no punches. “The US government instead wants to take us off without testing, fly us back to the US with a bunch of other untested people, and then stick us in 2 more weeks of quarantine? How does that make any sense at all?”
Those who decide not to board the flight will still have to spend two weeks in Japan before being able to head home.
For Karey Mansicalco, who owns a