SEOUL – The South Korean government is sending a presidential plane to Japan on Tuesday afternoon to evacuate several citizens on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked in Yokohama, a government official said Tuesday.
The plane is returning to Seoul early Wednesday with four South Koreans and the Japanese spouse of one of them, according to the official.
The South’s Yonhap news agency said that 14 South Koreans — nine passengers and five crew members — have remained inside the Diamond Princess cruise ship since it reported the first group of infections of COVID-19 on Feb. 5. The number of cases has surged to more than 450 out of some 3,700 aboard.
None of the South Koreans on the ship have contracted the disease.
Yonhap said that only five of the 14 will board the will fly to South Korea, with the rest apparently expressing a desire to stay on the ship, largely due to their residential status and lack of connection to South Korea.
All but three of the 14 people are permanent residents in Japan, Yonhap, quoting the South’s Foreign Ministry, reported.
South Korea President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday the government should make an all-out effort to boost the economy as it comes under pressure from a coronavirus outbreak.
“(The government) shouldn’t quibble over whether anything is unprecedented or not, rather, we should take every possible measure we can think of on the table to deploy them,” Moon said in a Cabinet meeting.
Moon said the economy is in an emergency situation and needs a boost to stimulate domestic demand.
In 2015, South Korea drew up a supplementary budget to help cushion the economy from the effects of an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).