Coronavirus scare: Japan quarantines 3,500 on board cruise ship

The move comes after an 80-year-old passenger tested positive for the deadly epidemic

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The cruise ship has already been quarantined once on Saturday at a port in Naha in Japan's Okinawa | File photo: Princess Cruises

About 3,500 people on board a cruise ship were quarantined and are undergoing screening in Japan on Tuesday (February 4) after one of the passengers who departed in Hong Kong tested positive for the new coronavirus. The ship was carrying 2,500 passengers, besides 1,000 crew members, reports said.

Television footage showed quarantine officers entering the Diamond Princess ship at the port of Yokohama on Monday to check the health of the passengers and the crew members. The move comes after an 80-year-old passenger who disembarked on January 25 in Hong Kong tested positive for the deadly virus.

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Japan’s top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga on Monday said Japanese authorities would quarantine the vessel, which arrived at Yokohama Bay a day earlier than originally planned. Reports suggest after the ship arrived in Yokohama on Monday evening, the passengers were told their departure from the area would be delayed by 24 hours.

A woman who was sailing with her mother on the ship told private broadcaster TBS all passengers “were asked to stay in their rooms to wait for virus tests”. She said they had been waiting inside their room since Monday and had no word of when they would be tested as of early Tuesday.

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The cruise ship has already been quarantined once, on Saturday at a port in Naha in Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. But a second quarantine was organised after the man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected.

Since Saturday, Japan has been barring foreign nationals who have been to Hubei in recent weeks, as well as holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei. Arrivals displaying symptoms of the new virus can also be denied entry. A total of eight foreigners have been barred from entering so far, spokesperson Suga said on Monday.

The health ministry said as of Monday that 20 people in Japan have tested positive for the new virus, of whom four showed no symptoms. Japan has flown more than 500 citizens out of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus.

(With inputs from agencies)

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