Hundreds of passengers began leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday after the end of a much-criticised, two-week quarantine that failed to stop the spread of a new virus among passengers and crew.
Results were still pending for some passengers who have been tested for the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people in China and more than 540 on the ship.
Some passengers said on social media that they received health check forms asking if they had symptoms such as a headache, fever or coughing.
Passengers who tested negative and had no symptoms still had to get their body temperature checked before leaving.
Japanese soldiers helped escort some passengers, including an elderly man in a wheelchair who wore a face mask and held a cane.
Some passengers apparently called taxis to get home; others got on buses to be transported to train stations. Some people still in their ship cabins waved farewell from their balconies to those who had already disembarked.
“I’m a bit concerned if I’m OK to get off the ship, but it was getting very difficult physically,” a 77-year-old man from Saitama, near Tokyo, who got off with his wife, told Kyodo News. “For now, we just want to celebrate.”
About 500 passengers were expected to leave on Wednesday and Japanese officials will spend several days staging the high-stakes evacuation of about 2,000 others who were kept on board the ship at the Yokohama port near Tokyo after one passenger who departed the Diamond Princess earlier in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.
The 3,711 people, including 1,100 crew members, on the Diamond Princess, went into quarantine off Japan on February 5, after it emerged that a former passenger had tested positive for the new coronavirus.