A Ballarat mother and her daughter in coronavirus quarantine on board the Diamond Princess in Japan are relieved they will be evacuated back to Australia this week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the more than 200 Australians stranded on the coronavirus-hit ship would be flown home on Wednesday but face a further 14 days of quarantine at a workers' village outside Darwin.
"We will just be happy to be back in Australia, be closer to Australian health care if required and be one step closer to home," said Clare Hedger who, along with her mum Lyn have been quarantined on the ship since February 4.
"We are lucky because any commitments we have can be dealt with via email and phone. Those with businesses and children that they need to get home to are not feeling the same."
Before the announcement, the Hedgers had felt like they were "in limbo" after the US moved to evacuate their residents in recent days.
They had been hoping not to face another two weeks of quarantine, but were preparing themselves mentally for any eventuality.
Mother and daughter have been confined to their cabin for 23 hours a day and allowed on the deck for one hour for fresh air and exercise.
The ship was quarantined on the final day of their cruise on February 4, with the 14-day quarantine period due to end on February 19.
Seventy more people on board were confirmed to have the virus on Sunday, bringing the number of cases from the ship to 355, with 16 of them Australians.
Those who tested positive for the virus were being removed from the ship and treated onshore in Japan.
"Initially I felt any evacuation by the Australia government would be an unnecessary drain on resources and funding. However this process is now a huge drain on Japan," Clare said.
A different note on my door tonight. Today I was reminded how tirelessly the crew are working on this ship. They are all working so hard, long hours and dealing with perturbed guests!! Thank you to all the crew!! #diamondprincess#Quarantine#gratitudepic.twitter.com/SpqysBS2ai— Clare Hedger (@clarehedger) February 10, 2020
Americans on board the Diamond Princess were being flown to the US on chartered planes from Sunday, while authorities in Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy have announced flights home for their citizens.
"The US evacuees left through the middle of the night. There was a lot of anger initially relating to their extra 14 days quarantine and lack of intervention earlier from their government. I believe, once the shock subsided, there was more acceptance of this and some are just happy to be one step closer to home," Clare said.
"At the end of the day, if we are quarantined, we are protecting everyone we are going home to. I couldn't forgive myself if I passed it onto someone back in Australia."
Mother and daughter had a scare last week when Clare developed a temperature, but it quickly disappeared though they have had further testing.
"Neither of us have tested positive yet, however a further test is being processed," Clare said.
They have been passing time by keeping in touch with family and friends, reading, watching television, exercising and walking around the room. They also chat with fellow passengers via Facebook.
"There are a few Facebook groups passengers have created on board. This is our main form of communication with other passengers," she said.
"Somehow the days aren't passing too slowly!"
Diamond Princess crew are delivering meals, games and other goods to passengers and even created a special Valentines Day dinner complete with red roses.
"We are extremely grateful for all the Japanese health authorities, workers and volunteers and Princess staff who have been amazing and very generous. We know everyone is doing the very best under the circumstances."
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