TOKYO - A total of 61 people on board a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama have tested positive for the coronavirus, as the health ministry announced 41 more cases on Friday (Feb 7).
Those who have tested positive have been ferried to hospitals across Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama and Shizuoka prefectures for treatment.
“As they were staying together for a prolonged period in a closed environment, their contact was repeated,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. “Our top priority is to check the health of passengers and crew of the cruise ship and take thorough measures to prevent infections.”
The 41 cases comprise 21 Japanese, eight Americans, five Australians, five Canadians, and one each from Argentina and Britain.
By age, three patients are between 20 and 39, three are in their 50s, eight in their 60s, 21 in their 70s, and six in their 80s. None are in serious condition.
The remaining 3,650 passengers and crew face two weeks in isolation on board the Diamond Princess, as Japan acts to stem the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.
A total of 273 people on the luxury liner were screened for the pathogen after a former passenger, a 80-year-old man who disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan 25, tested positive for the strain.
Those who were tested had either complained of flu symptoms or were in close in contact with the infected passenger.
Japan will ban the entry of all foreigners on board cruise ships with suspected cases of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.
This comes as the Westerdam, which set sail from Hong Kong last Saturday, is due to dock in Yokohama next week.
Japan now has a total of 86 confirmed cases of the new virus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. More than 600 people have died and over 30,000 been infected, mainly in mainland China.
A fourth chartered All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight from Wuhan landed at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Friday morning, carrying 198 passengers including 119 Japanese nationals as well as 77 Chinese and two Taiwanese who are the spouses and children of Japanese citizens.
Meanwhile, Mr Abe on Friday ordered his government to take “all necessary steps” to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy, including tapping state budget reserves.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters: “There’s a risk the coronovirus outbreak could hurt consumption, so we need to watch developments carefully.”
He added that the impact on inbound tourism is also a concern.
As many as 400,000 trips by Chinese nationals to Japan are expected to be cancelled through next month while department stores have reported double-digit falls in tax-free sales over Chinese New Year.