Japan cruise ship coronavirus cases climb to 174

A further 39 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the Japan coast have tested positive for the new coronavirus, authorities said Wednesday, as thousands more steel themselves for a second week in quarantine, reports AFP.

The ship that originally had over 3,700 passengers and crew on board has become the largest single cluster of the newly named COVID-19 disease outside its origin in China, where it has killed more than 1,100 people. “Out of 53 new test results, 39 people were found positive,” Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters, bringing the total of cases on board to 174. In addition, a quarantine officer was also found to be infected with the virus. The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since arriving off the Japanese coast early last week after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong.

Passengers have also been asked to keep a distance from each other when outside, and given thermometers to regularly monitor their temperatures. When the boat arrived off Japan, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people of the 3,711 aboard for the virus, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities.

Aside from the cruise ship, Japan has identified 28 cases, including at least nine from evacuation flights that brought Japanese citizens out of the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated. Prime minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan was expanding its ban on travellers to the province of Zhejiang.