The three requirements made for Americans abroad with the virus include any fever being resolved with “the absence of medication”, an improvement to signs and symptoms of the illness, and the patient testing negative to two sets of nasal and throat swabs within 24 hours of each other, CNN reports.
These guidelines closely follow what the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends for hospitals when releasing patients from isolation.
Reports circulated that coronavirus-positive citizens could return to the US after a 14-day quarantine, which is the high estimate of how long the virus’ incubation period lasts. But the embassy made clear that each citizen would need to pass the three requirements.
“You will not be cleared to travel simply by waiting 14 days,” the embassy wrote.
These letters from the embassy were specifically sent to US citizens on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan — a ship that has been docked there for the last 14 days due to a coronavirus outbreak, with Japanese officials placing it under quarantine.
The quarantine period officially ended for the 3,711 passengers and crew on board on Wednesday, but it did not signal that everyone twould immediately be able to return to their respective home countries.
The goal of the quarantine was to keep the people on board the ship off land to prevent the spread of the virus. But this instead only heightened the spread of it, with 621 reported cases on the ship as of Wednesday, including three Japanese health officials brought on to help curb the virus.
“The quarantine process failed,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told USA Today. “I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.”
Passenger Arnold Hopland, a primary-care physician from Tennessee, told the Wall Street Journal what potentially went wrong on the cruise ship during quarantine to aid in it spreading.
People were encouraged to remain in their rooms for the majority of the day, but they were then allowed to go on walks on the ship’s decks while wearing masks. It was also advised for people to have minimal contact with other passengers, but officials believe not everyone complied with the rules.
Also, Dr Hopland said crew members were allowed to roam the ship freely. These crew members would go door-to-door daily to deliver guests food and other supplies, the Associated Press reports.
“I was surprised I was negative because I knew the virus had swept through this boat like wildfire,” Dr. Hopland told the newspaper. “My analogy is they put us in a petri dish to get infected.”
Japanese officials confirmed two passengers on the ship, both of whom were in their 80s, have died after contracting the virus.
Carnival Corporation, which owns and operates the Diamond Princess cruise ship, has agreed to cover the testing costs the American passengers on the cruise ship who’ve tested positive for the virus, according to the US embassy.
These passengers will have to submit they’ve passed the three health requirements before the embassy will clear them to fly to the US.
The CDC has also put a travel ban on the other American passengers for 14 days after they leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship to ensure the virus doesn’t spread.
Due to the spread of the coronavirus into Japan, the CDC issued a new travel advisory on Thursday. It moved the area to a Level 1, the lowest of three travel advisory levels.
Level 1 encourages travelers to stay away from sick people in the location and wash their hands often. Hong Kong also received a Level 1 travel advisory.
China is at a Level 3, the highest warning level, which advises people to not travel to the country for any “nonessential” trips until the coronavirus outbreak is under control.