Government will provide information and take timely measures, official says
The number of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus on a quarantined ship off Japan's coast has risen to 355, the country's health minister said on Sunday.
"We have conducted tests for 1,219 individuals. Of those, 355 people tested positive," Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, told a roundtable discussion on public broadcaster NHK. It was a rise of 70 from the last government toll.
The Diamond Princess, owned by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, on Feb 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it traveled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus.
The ship, with about 3,700 passengers and crew, has the most coronavirus infections outside China. Those testing positive are transferred to Japanese hospitals. No one from the ship has died of the virus.
"We must anticipate a spread of infections from now and must build medical system and so on to focus efforts to prevent people from becoming gravely ill or dying," Kato said.
"We will make the people feel at ease by providing information in a timely manner and continue (taking forestalling) measures."
Local media said Japan has been unable to test all those on board due to limited supplies of testing kits, facilities and manpower that are also needed by authorities tracking the spread of the virus among the general population.
Japan has had 53 cases of the coronavirus, apart from those on the ship, NHK reported, with one of only four deaths from the virus outside Chinese mainland. There have been single deaths of those with the virus in Hong Kong, the Philippines and France.
The new figures came as the United States prepared to evacuate some of its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise.
"Based on the high number of the coronavirus cases identified onboard the Diamond Princess, the Department of Health and Human Services made an assessment that passengers and crew members onboard are at high risk of exposure," the US embassy said in a letter to its passengers.
Canada, too, announced a similar decision to repatriate its nationals on the ship.
The captain of the Diamond Princess has told passengers that the Japanese government may start testing them for the virus from Tuesday, and those with negative results would be allowed to get off the ship from Friday.