Eight Kiwi passengers on the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship will be evacuated from Japan to Darwin, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed.
Eleven New Zealand citizens have been trapped in lockdown on the ship for a fortnight, while another two have been hospitalised with coronavirus.
On Wednesday morning, Dr Bloomfield confirmed to The AM Show that eight of the 11 citizens have agreed to take the charter flight offered by the Australian government. Two have decided to remain away from New Zealand for the 14-day quarantine period while another will return to their residence in Hong Kong.
Dr Bloomfield said a paramedic will be sent to Darwin to collect the eight New Zealanders and return them home, where they will spend another 14 days in quarantine.
"They are all going to be checked before they leave the ship and then before they board the flight," he said.
"We're sending a paramedic to pick them up in Darwin to check them again. There is ongoing infection on the ship, 13 to 14 percent of passengers and crew have been infected. We'll be watching them closely with a low bar for testing if they become symptomatic."
If any of the eight New Zealanders do test positive for coronavirus before leaving the ship, they will be hospitalised in Japan.
Dr Bloomfield noted Diamond Princess passengers are at a "slightly higher risk" of contracting coronavirus than New Zealand's Wuhan evacuees due to the active infection on the cruise ship.
"We'll be putting in place similar measures to the Wuhan group, but [also] daily checks and keeping a close eye on the health of those people while they're in quarantine."
Dr Bloomfield reiterated that the Government still believes there is "a high risk" of New Zealand getting its first coronavirus case.
"They could be from the Diamond Princess, we don't know... but we are well prepared and have in place good protocols," he said.
It has also been confirmed that the 157 New Zealanders evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease, will be released from quarantine in Whangaparaoa on Wednesday.
"We have looked after them, this hasn't been like prison... there have been activities for them and they've been looked after," Dr Bloomfield said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that 200 Australian citizens will also be evacuated back to Darwin.