A total of 41 people quarantined on a cruise liner off Japan tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 61, with thousands of passengers confined to cabins as the testing is carried out.
The cruise ship and the roughly 3,700 people on board have been under a two-week quarantine since arriving back at the port of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Monday after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.
The 61 cases came from a sample of 273 people who had been tested because they were either showing symptoms or had been in close contact with those who did, according to the health ministry.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference 21 of the newly found 41 cases were Japanese. Further tests would be conducted if additional passengers on board the ship developed symptoms, he said.
The outbreak, which has killed has almost 640 people in mainland China but only two elsewhere, has stoked concern about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which begin on July 24. Games organisers have set up a task force to coordinate with health authorities on how to respond to the epidemic.
Video footage showed blue and white tarpaulin put up on the Diamond Princess to screen passengers from view as those diagnosed with the virus were moved out to hospitals in Tokyo and neighbouring towns, the health ministry said.
The increase in the number of infections has added to the gloom for passengers stuck on the ship, who were only allowed onto open decks briefly for fresh air.
Internet bandwidth had been increased and passengers were finding out about the new infections from the internet before they were announced on the ship, a 43-year-old Hong Kong resident, on the ship with his family, told Reuters.
Staff distributed thermometers and passengers were told mental health experts were available, over the telephone around the clock.
More to follow…