Two elderly former passengers of the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess Cruise ship, which is moored off the Japanese coast, died on Thursday (February 20) while the total number of people infected on board jumped to 634 with the emergence of 13 new cases. This includes an Indian, the Embassy said, adding the total number of infected Indians now stands at eight.
The two deceased former passengers, a man and a woman, both Japanese and in their eighties, were taken off the cruise ship last week and died in hospital, the first fatalities among the more than 600 passengers and crew who have tested positive for the virus. The man had a pre-existing condition of bronchial asthma and a history of angina treatment, the health ministry said.
However, according to health ministry official, the deceased woman had no known pre-existing conditions and the direct cause of her death was pneumonia. “The two were sent to medical facilities when they showed symptoms. I believe they received the best possible treatment,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told MPs.
The huge vessel moored in Yokohama near Tokyo is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 634 positive cases confirmed among the passengers and crew. On Wednesday, 443 passengers disembarked after testing negative for the COVID-19 virus and not showing symptoms during a 14-day quarantine period.
The removal of all passengers was expected to take at least three days. More passengers left the ship Thursday, packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports to head home. But questions are being asked as to why former Diamond Princess passengers are able to roam freely around Japan’s famously crowded cities, even if they have tested negative.
Meanwhile, another Indian on board the quarantined ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus infection and was shifted to hospital. The Indian Embassy in Tokyo on Thursday said this takes the total number of Indians infected with the virus to eight. A total of 138 Indians, including 132 crew and 6 passengers, were among the 3,711 people on board the ship.
In a tweet, the Indian embassy here said, “One Indian crew who tested positive for COVID-19 among 79 new cases on Diamond Princess has been shifted to hospital for treatment. All eight Indians receiving treatment are responding well. Rest all Indians on-board are braving out the trying circumstances.” The mission said that infected Indians were responding well to the treatment.
Meanwhile, some of the passengers with no infection began leaving the ship on Wednesday after the end of a two-week quarantine period that failed to stop the spread of the virus among passengers and crew. “About 500 more passengers began disembarking on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home,” reports said quoting a health ministry official.
(With inputs from agencies)