A Melbourne teenager could recover from coronavirus and fly home before her family, who remain stuck in quarantine in Japan after an outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Kaitlyn Soh, 16, was diagnosed when her family were preparing to evacuate the Diamond Princess and fly to Darwin, where they would have spent another two weeks in quarantine.
As she is a minor, her family were given the option of having just one parent stay back with her but they insisted on staying together in Japan.
Kaitlyn's mother, father and brother have been in isolation at the same hospital but on a different floor to her.
She will be released once she tests negative to coronavirus twice, 24 hours apart but the rest of the family will be stuck in quarantine until next Friday, when 14 days are up.
Kaitlyn's most recent test was still positive, though she has no symptoms.
If she does recover before the family's 14-day quarantine period is over, her mother Aun Na Tan said Kaitlyn would fly home alone and stay with other relatives in Sydenham in Melbourne's north-west.
"We have decided that the moment she tests negative we [will] start calling the consulate to ask if that's possible and if so start arranging possible flights," Ms Tan said.
"She's a little worried about travelling by herself. We will have to fine-tune this plan once she returns the first negative, she might end up still returning positive for a while.
"Another Aussie we are in contact with will be in hospital for three weeks this Friday and is frustratingly still showing positive results for COVID-19."
A Health Department spokesman said the government would look at each of the Diamond Princess passengers on a case-by-case basis.
The department "has deployed a public health specialist to Japan who is assisting Australians to navigate the requirements for return and to assist in making determinations on individual cases," he said.
He confirmed that Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers who have not tested positive to the virus will need to remain in quarantine in Japan for 14 days before travelling to Australia.
"Individuals will not be required to complete an additional quarantine period upon their return, unless they exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during health screening on entry," the spokesman said.
Recovered patients in Japan will need to meet four criteria before they're allowed back in the country. That includes two negative tests 24 hours apart.
"Australians who are medically cleared from the Japanese health system will be provided a medical clearance form for presentation to officials upon arrival at the Australian border," a Health Department spokesman said.
The Health Department is yet to confirm what the other three criteria are.
Ms Tan feared the family would get to the end of two weeks in quarantine and be told it had not met Australian standards. They have not been tested, only monitored, and don't know what will happen from here if another family member tests positive for the virus.
She understood cautiousness from the Australian government but said the family still has no clear information on how and when they will get home.
"We were advised back when we decided not to evacuate half the family, that as long as we completed formal quarantine in Japan, we will be allowed to come home to Australia without further quarantine," Ms Tan said.
"But now that we have asked for this in writing and what constitutes a 'formal quarantine', we have received a, 'it's under review and discussion'.
"This leaves us worried there may be steps left out by the hospital and we do not meet the 'formal quarantine' guidelines when we get to the time of trying to get home."
The family has been in quarantine for 22 days overall, including their time on the cruise ship after the virus broke out onboard.
Almost 170 Australians were evacuated from the Diamond Princess and flown to Darwin last Thursday.
Eight people on that evacuation flight have since been diagnosed with coronavirus in Australia, and remain in isolation.
Four people on the Diamond Princess cruise have died after contracting coronavirus. The death of the fourth victim, a Tokyo man in his 80s, was announced by Japan's Health Ministry on Tuesday.
Of 4000 passengers and crew tested on the ship, 705 people have contracted the virus.
Is it a pandemic?
While the World Health Organisation has already declared COVID-19 a global health emergency, whether or not it is a "pandemic" is another matter.
According to the WHO, a pandemic, colloquially, refers to "a new pathogen that spreads easily from person to person across the globe”.
But since the world’s last pandemic - swine flu in 2009 - the organisation has moved to a different “phasing system” to measure such outbreaks, meaning pandemic is no longer a designation triggering a formal response.
The WHO may use the word, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says, but it has already put the world on alert in declaring an emergency last month.
As for whether the word "pandemic" fits the current coronavirus outbreak, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the window to contain the virus has not yet closed though further investment from countries is still needed to stop it in its tracks.