Japan reports 44 more cases of Coronavirus on quarantined ship taking count to 218
TOKYO: Japan’s health ministry said Thursday 44 more people on a cruise liner quarantined near Tokyo have tested positive for the virus that causes the new disease referred to as COVID-19.
The Diamond Princess, which remains carrying about 3,500 passengers and crew members, now has 218 people infected with the virus out of 713 people tested since it entered Yokohama Port on Feb. 3, the most important cluster of infections outside China.
In all, Japan has 247 confirmed cases of the new disease that apparently started in Wuhan, a city in central China, in December.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said five of the patients sent to hospitals earlier have severe symptoms and are on artificial respirators or under medical care .
Kato also said the govt has decided to permit passengers older than 80 to urge off the ship after testing negative for the virus. He said results of tests on about 200 eligible passengers are underway, and people with chronic health problems or in cabins without operable windows are going to be given priority.
Kato said the measure is to scale back health risks for passengers stuck in rooms under difficult conditions. those that are released are going to be asked to remain at a delegated facility through the top of the quarantine period.
“We do our utmost for the health of crew members and passengers who remain on the ship,” Kato told a press conference .
Some experts have questioned Japan's strategy of isolating the passengers and crew during a potentially virus-affected environment on the ship while the disease is already slowly making its way into the country.
“On the ship, infections are becoming very dense,” said Shigeru Omi, an communicable disease prevention expert and former regional director for the planet Health Organization. “It’s like we are seeing a really condensed version of what could happen during a area people .”
Omi, who currently heads the Japan Community Health Care Organization, said those people that have tested positive for the virus are “only a fraction” of what could already be spreading outside of the ship. “We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan,” he said.