Nine passengers and a crew member on a cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama have tested positive for a new coronavirus originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the health ministry said Wednesday.
By nationality, three of the 10 infected people in their 50s to 80s are Japanese, three are Chinese, two are Australians, one is an American and another is a Filipino, according to Carnival Japan Inc., the operator of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Kyodo reports.
The ship with 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members from 56 counties and regions aboard has been kept in quarantine at anchor off a pier in the Kanagawa Prefecture capital after a disembarked 80-year-old passenger from Hong Kong was found to be infected with the pneumonia-causing virus.
The latest discovery brings to 33 the number of people found in Japan to be infected with the virus.
As of Wednesday, more than 24,000 people are infected on mainland China, with the death toll rising to 492, according to the country's health authorities.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the Japanese government is planning to dispatch its fourth chartered flight to Wuhan on Thursday to bring home Japanese nationals who wish to return.
Of the cruise passengers and crew, 120 who have displayed symptoms including a cough and fever and 153 who had close contact with the infected passenger were tested for the virus, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.
Results for 31 people came back, and the 10 found to be infected were sent to four hospitals. Health minister Katsunobu Kato said it will take several days before the results for the remaining people come out.
Of the 10, two went on the same bus tour with the Hong Kong man when the ship made a stop in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, according to the ministry.
None are showing severe symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all, the ministry said. They were all hospitalized to prevent infections from spreading further.
The government is asking all passengers and crew to stay inside their rooms as much as possible on the ship for 14 days from Wednesday as it continues screening.
The elderly and those with pre-existing conditions will be tested for the virus as they tend to be worst affected if infected, the ministry said.
We will take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of infections while giving full attention to the health of the passengers and crew," minister Kato said at a press conference.
(Health officials in protective gear collect the baggage of Diamond Princess passengers at a pier in Yokohama near Tokyo on Feb. 5, 2020.)
The city of Yokohama said the vessel will dock Thursday morning to restock food and other supplies. Passengers were earlier told the vessel would dock later Wednesday.
The virus-infected man from Hong Kong flew to Tokyo in mid-January and boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama on Jan. 20. He disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25.
The number of foreigners arriving in Japan on cruise ships has been on the rise in recent years, with those from China hitting 1.74 million last year, making up about 80 percent of the total 2.15 million, according to the transport ministry.
The total figure has increased 12-fold from the level in 2013, when the ministry started taking records.
After departing Yokohama on Jan. 20, the Diamond Princess stopped at Kagoshima two days later before arriving in Hong Kong. It then traveled to Vietnam and Taiwan before calling at Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, on Saturday and then returning to Yokohama on Monday night, according to its operator.
The ship passed quarantine in Naha but the ministry decided to redo it following the discovery that the Hong Kong man had been infected with the coronavirus.
Thirteen people disembarked in Naha, but none have shown symptoms, and they had all left the southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa by Tuesday, according to the health ministry and local authorities.
Source: Kazinform News Agency
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