COVID-19 outbreak: Commission supports repatriation of EU citizens from cruise ship in Japan

coronavirus outbreak

UN News/Li Zhang People wear face masks at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan.

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

The EU is co-financing the repatriation of EU citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, thanks to flights from Italy mobilised through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

“The outbreak of this epidemic is full of human stories. We must not lose sight of them amongst the numbers and statistics. I thank the Italian authorities and all the flight crew and staff for helping bring EU citizens safely back home. The EU continues to work 24/7 both to support our Member States as well as China. We are currently working on dispatching further supplies to China in the coming days,” said Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.

The first Italian aircraft has departed en route to Japan with an advanced medical team on board and a second aircraft will leave this evening to repatriate EU citizens on board the Diamond Princess. The cruise ship has been docked in Yokohama for quarantine since early February after a disembarking passenger tested positive for COVID-19.

The Italian medical team will evaluate the passengers and only those that have tested negative for the COVID-19 virus or do not present any symptoms of the illness will be allowed to board the flight. Final numbers and nationalities will therefore be known in the coming days. After arrival in Europe, passengers will start a new quarantine period organised and monitored by each Member State.

The EU will co-finance the costs of these flights. So far, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has facilitated the repatriation of over 400 EU citizens from China on planes organised by France and Germany.

The European Commission is in regular contact with Member States, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organisation on all aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak.


The EU Civil Protection Mechanism strengthens cooperation between Member States/Participating States in the field of civil protection, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. Through the Mechanism, the European Commission plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond.

When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism. Once activated, the Mechanism coordinates assistance made available by its Member States/Participating States through spontaneous offers. In addition, the EU has created the European Civil Protection Pool to have a critical number of readily available civil protection capacities allowing for a stronger and coherent collective response.

To date, all EU Member States participate in the Mechanism, as well as Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey. Since its inception in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has responded to more than 300 requests for assistance inside and outside the EU.

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