Taiwan’s Deputy Health Minister Ho Chi-kung told reporters Wednesday that Taipei intends to send a chartered aircraft to evacuate its nationals from a coronavirus (COVID-19) hit cruise liner in Japan.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Ho did not give details on when the aircraft would arrive in Japan, however, it is understood the evacuation could take place as soon as Friday.

Over 20 Taiwanese have been quarantined on the Diamond Princess along with around 3,600 others since the ship first arrived in the port of Yokohama on February 3rd, with almost 550 of that number known to have contracted the virus – the largest cluster of COVID-19 patients outside China.

The first passengers started to disembark from the ship earlier on Wednesday after a pre-requisite period of 14 days in quarantine, although US authorities removed several hundred of its own citizens earlier, before quarantining them near a US military base in Omaha once back in the US.

In a similar approach to Taiwan, UK authorities have announced their intent to repatriate 74 British nationals in the coming days.

Passengers from Australia, Canada, the UK and US, however, face a further 14 days of state imposed quarantine when they return home.

To date, official figures indicate over 2,000 people have now died  as a direct result of contracting COVID-19 in China although skepticism is on the rise as to the accuracy of official figures being released by Beijing.

The number of confirmed infections globally now stands at around 75,000.

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