Two Japan Cruise Ship Passengers Die From Coronavirus

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Two Japanese passengers who contracted the new coronavirus onboard a cruise ship quarantined in Japan have died, officials say.

Both were in their 80s with underlying health conditions. They were being treated in hospitals after being taken off the Diamond Princess last week.

At least 621 people on the ship tested positive for the virus, named Covid-19, the biggest cluster outside China.

The coronavirus, which originated in China’s Hubei province last year, causes pneumonia-like symptoms.

Overall, there have now been 2,118 deaths and nearly 75,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China.

On Thursday, South Korea confirmed its first coronavirus death. Japan’s neighbour also reported a sharp rise in virus cases, most of them from a newly identified cluster at a large religious community.

What is known about the two Japanese fatalities?

The victims were an 87-year-old man and an 84-year-old woman, Japan’s health ministry said.

The man – from Kanagawa prefecture south of Tokyo – had had bronchial asthma and died from Covid-19.

The woman – from the capital – died from pneumonia believed to be caused by the coronavirus.

The victims have not been publicly named.

Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said they had been sent to medical facilities last week after showing symptoms.

“I believe they received the best possible treatment”, he said.

What’s the latest from the cruise ship?

The Diamond Princess was carrying 3,700 people in total and passengers who tested negative for the virus began leaving the ship on Wednesday after a 14-day quarantine.

Hundreds have now disembarked from the cruise liner docked in Yokohama. Others are set to leave over the next two days.

More than 150 Australian passengers have already arrived in Darwin, where they will begin two weeks of quarantine.

The first batch of people from Hong Kong has also flown back to the city, where they will similarly be quarantined.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britons stranded on the ship would be able to board an evacuation flight home on Friday, as long as they were not showing symptoms of the virus.

Indonesia is also set to repatriate its citizens.

In other developments:

  • Chinese nationals were barred from entering Russia as of Thursday as a precautionary measure
  • Australia extended until 29 February its ban on international arrivals who have been to China

Why is Japan being criticised for its handling of the quarantine?

Japanese health expert Kentaro Iwata, professor at the infectious diseases division of Kobe University, visited the Diamond Princess and said the situation on board was “completely chaotic”.

“The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control,” he said in a widely shared YouTube video which he has since taken offline.

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