Japan to let off last healthy cruise travelers, isolate rest

Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato speaks during a press briefing at the ministry in Tokyo on February 20, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 February 2020

Japan to let off last healthy cruise travelers, isolate rest

  • The ship docked at a Yokohama port has the most COVID-19 cases outside of China, with 634 confirmed by late Thursday
  • Six government quarantine workers contracted the virus, raising questions about the protective measures used

TOKYO: Japan’s health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticized quarantine of the vessel ended.

The ship docked at a Yokohama port has the most COVID-19 cases outside of China, with 634 confirmed by late Thursday. Two former passengers have died.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.

Most crew members and other passengers who have not completed their 14-day quarantines because they had more recent contact with infected people are staying on the ship for now, but they will be transported to a government facility to be quarantined in isolation.

Japan is discussing with the ship operator and home countries of foreign crew members over their future movements, he said.

Japan’s government has been questioned over its decision to keep people quarantined on the ship, given the tight quarters and the difficulty of isolating sick people from the healthy.

Six government quarantine workers contracted the virus, raising questions about the protective measures used.

The two fatalities, a man and woman who were both Japanese and in their 80s, were believed to have been infected before health checks and a Feb. 5 quarantine began on the ship, Health Ministry official Masami Sakoi said. It was not immediately known if they had any roommates on the ship.

The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has sickened tens of thousands of people, mostly in central China’s Hubei province.

The US and other countries have put former Diamond Princess passengers in second quarantines.

Australia said two passengers tested positive after they returned home. Kato said Australia, like the US, brought home a mixture of passengers who tested negative and others who were not tested and had an unknown status, therefore it was difficult to know when or how they had contracted the virus.

Kato said passengers who returned home on the US and Australian flights did so before completing the Japanese quarantine process, and that Japan’s ongoing disembarkation of passengers is still adequate.


Pakistan seeks extradition of Daesh leader from Afghanistan

Updated 15 sec ago

Pakistan seeks extradition of Daesh leader from Afghanistan

  • Aslam Farooqi is a Pakistani national wanted in connection with attacks claimed by Daesh in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has asked neighbor Afghanistan to extradite a leader in the local Daesh group affiliate who was arrested in an Afghan intelligence operation in southern Afghanistan earlier this month.
Aslam Farooqi is a Pakistani national wanted in connection with attacks claimed by Daesh in Pakistan. The Afghan government accuses Farooqi of involvement in last month’s attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul on a Sikh house of worship that killed 25 worshipers.
The Daesh group, on its affiliated Amaq website, took credit for the attack saying it was carried out by Indian national Abu Khalid Al-Hindi in revenge for Indian military action in its violence-wracked portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
A single gunman rampaged through the Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, exploding grenades and firing at worshipers.
There was no immediate response from Afghanistan.
In a statement late Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Atif Mashal, had been summoned and told of Pakistan’s worries about the activities of the Daesh affiliate, known as the Daesh -Khorazan, headquartered in eastern Afghanistan.
“Since Aslam Farooqi was involved in anti-Pakistan activities in Afghanistan, he should be handed-over to Pakistan for further investigations,” the ministry statement said
Farooqi, whose real name is Abdullah Orakzai, was arrested last weekend along with 19 other Daesh operatives, according to Afghanistan’s intelligence agency.
The upstart Daesh affiliate has taken credit for attacks in Pakistan, including one in January in the southwestern Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta that killed 15 worshipers.
In recent months, Afghan and American officials claim the Daesh has been weakened as a result of relentless US bombing raids in eastern Afghanistan as well as military operations by the Afghan National Security Forces and attacks by their rivals, Taliban insurgents.
In the months leading up to Washington’s peace deal with the Taliban signed in February, US officials said a key component of the agreement was a promise by the Taliban to aid in the fight against Daesh, seen as the greatest threat to US national security emanating from Afghanistan.
Still, the US-Taliban peace deal has had a rocky beginning. Political wrangling in Kabul between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in last year’s disputed presidential polls, Abdullah Abdullah, has frustrated Washington, which has threatened to withdraw $1 billion in aid if they don’t find a power-sharing deal. Their bickering has delayed the next critical step in the deal, which calls for intra-Afghan negotiations between Kabul leaders, many of whom are linked to warlords and the Taliban.
Delays in completing a prisoner release as laid out in the US-Taliban deal have further frustrated efforts to start the intra-Afghan negotiations.
However, the US and NATO began withdrawing forces and if the Taliban keep their promise to fight terrorism the US will withdraw all its forces over 14 months from the signing of the deal.