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A passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is currently quarantined off the coast of Japan amid a coronavirus outbreak, is speaking out against the United States’ plan to evacuate American passengers.
Matthew Smith, who has been quarantined with his wife since Feb. 5, told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he prefers to stay on the cruise ship.
“Our greatest desire at this point is to maintain the quarantine that the Japanese health officials have established,” Smith said, “then get a test for the virus at the end of that quarantine so we can establish with relative certainty that we are not infected and be free to go.
“Unfortunately, the State Department has thrown a monkey wrench into that,” he added.
Approximately 400 Americans and their families on the Diamond Princess will be offered seats on two flights that could arrive at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., as early as Sunday, a CDC official told The Wall Street Journal.
A group of quarantined passengers exercise on the Diamond Princess cruise ship Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo. A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 67,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A CDC team will screen passengers and those exhibiting symptoms won’t be allowed on the flights.
Smith, however, said he’s skeptical about the proposed plan.
“I understand getting off the ship to be in another space, but under this circumstance, the offer is we’re going to put you on buses with other people who haven’t completed their quarantines and have not been tested for the virus,” Smith said.
“We’re going to then put you on a plane with all these people and take you back to the United States, and because of the risk you still pose due to that situation we’re going to stick you in another quarantine.”
Smith said he would rather stay put on the Diamond Princess ship. While the ship is “getting a bad rap” for its living conditions, Smith said he is content where he is.
“We have access to the balcony, we are fed well – three times a day along with excess food — they provide all the necessities we need in there,” he said.
Smith said he does, however, sympathize with those who are not staying in a suite like he and his wife.
“We can go outside for fresh air and sunshine – when it does shine – whenever we like,” he explained.
“Other passengers have a vastly different experience if they’re on an interior cabin, which is markedly smaller and no access to fresh air. They have allowed those passengers up on the deck for an hour every few days.
Smith said his wife had been “depressed” and “more emotional” about the quarantine situation. She, too, was upset to learn about the U.S. plan to evacuate.
“Health-wise we are perfectly fine,” he said.