Update: Cruise Ships in Quarantine off Hong Kong, Japan After Coronavirus Cases Discovered
At least 10 of the more than 3,700 passengers on board a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country’s authorities have confirmed, causing a spike in the nation’s total number of reported cases.
Japan’s health ministry announced Wednesday (link in Japanese) that testing for the new strain of coronavirus, also known as nCoV-2019, is still underway for passengers of the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined since Monday off Yokohama, a port city south of Tokyo.
The announcement comes as the Chinese authorities said (link in Chinese) Monday they were looking to track down the more than 4,000 passengers on a Jan. 19 to Jan. 24 trip from Guangzhou, Guangdong province, to Vietnam aboard another cruise ship, the World Dream. At least three of the passengers on that journey have tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to media reports. The ship, which now carries a different set of passengers but the same crew, arrived in Hong Kong Wednesday and has been quarantined.
U.S.-based Princess Cruises Inc., the operator of Diamond Princess, confirmed that among those who tested positive were two Australian passengers, three from Japan, three from Hong Kong, and one from the U.S., along with one Filipino crew member.
“These 10 persons, who have been notified, will be taken ashore by Japanese Coast Guard watercraft and transported to local hospitals for care by shoreside Japanese medical professionals,” the company said in a Tuesday statement, adding that the ship will remain under quarantine for at least 14 days in Yokohama.
The Japanese government previously said that, starting this month, those who test positive for the virus, also known as nCoV-2019, will be barred from entering the country.
The new cases would bring the Japan’s total number of confirmed infections, which exceed 30 as of Wednesday, to the highest in the world outside of China. Thailand, which previously had the highest tally, reported 25 cases of nCoV-2019 as of Wednesday, while Singapore reported 24.
Princess Cruises said 1,045 people onboard were crew members, while 2,666 were passengers of a “range of nationalities,” with about half from Japan.
According to the ship’s 16-day itinerary, it left Yokohama Jan. 20, made a stop in Hong Kong on Jan. 25, and visited ports in Vietnam, Taiwan and other locations before returning to Yokohama Monday.
Princess Cruises said in its statement that a passenger from Hong Kong who had embarked in Yokohama left the cruise at the Hong Kong stop and later visited a hospital, where he tested positive for the virus Saturday.
“While on the ship he did not visit the ship’s medical center to report any symptoms or illness,” the cruise operator said. “The hospital reports that he is in stable condition and the family members traveling with him remain symptom-free.”
Last Thursday, Japan’s health ministry confirmed person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus had occurred in the country, but said “the epidemic is not widespread at present.”
As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed infections worldwide neared 25,000, while almost 500 people have died.
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