Japan's coronavirus infections reach 1,000, including Diamond Princess cases

Masked passengers look on from on board the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at Yokohama Port, south of Tokyo, Japan, on Feb 20, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Japan reached the 1,000 mark on Wednesday (March 4) with the newest case reported in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi, officials and media said.

The latest infection was confirmed in a man in his 40s in Yamaguchi, the prefecture's governor, Tsugumasa Muraoka, told a news conference.

Cases in Japan have now hit the 1,000 mark, public broadcaster NHK said. Of those, 706 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, while 12 have died, the health ministry said.

It was the first confirmed case in the western Japan prefecture of Yamaguchi, highlighting the virus' presence throughout the country which is scrambling to stem its spread with all eyes on the upcoming Summer Olympics.

"Given how the coronavirus was spreading throughout the country, I thought it would only be a matter of time before a case was confirmed in Yamaguchi," Muraoka said. "We will be doing all we can to prevent the spread of the virus."

The Olympics are scheduled to open in less than five months and International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach on Tuesday reiterated his backing for this summer's Games despite the coronavirus threat, urging athletes to prepare "full steam".

Still, there are worries the Games could be postponed or even cancelled. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked schools to close this month, companies are encouraging employees to work from home and sporting events are being cancelled or played in empty arenas.

Japan's Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, on Tuesday said Tokyo's contract with the IOC "could be interpreted as allowing a postponement" until the end of the year, although she reiterated the government remained committed to the Games starting on July 24.

The northern island of Hokkaido, which has a population of about 5 million people, has confirmed more than 70 infections.

That is the largest number of cases in Japan, prompting the island to declare a state of emergency.

Olympics host city Tokyo has seen 40 cases, while infections have been confirmed as far south as Okinawa.

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