Tokyo, Feb 10 (IANS) Japan’s Health Ministry on Monday confirmed that the number of people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus on board a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Yokohama has increased to 130, after the emergence of over 60 fresh cases.
The new cases on the Diamond Princess ship bring Japan’s number of confirmed cases to 150, The Japan Times said in a report.
This is the second highest figure after China which on Monday confirmed 908 deaths and 40,171 infections.
The government has now planned to test dozens more elderly people as it investigates whether there were any issues with hygiene control on the ship.
“We are considering testing, if possible, all those over 80 years old who are in ill health,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Monday.
The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry also said on Monday that it was considering testing all of the approximately 3,600 people aboard the ship when the two-week quarantine ends on February 19, The Japan Times reported.
Once their results were clear, they can leave the vessel.
“We need to properly address the unease and concerns of our citizens,” said Health Minister Katsunobu Kato.
The checks on Diamond Princess began after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who had been on the ship last month fell ill with the virus. He had boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama on January 20 and disembarked in Hong Kong five days later.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities on Sunday allowed over 3,600 passengers that were forced into quarantine for five days on the World Dream cruise ship over coronavirus fears, to disembark.
Half of the travellers have passed “numerous medical tests” and temperature controls, and all the tests carried out on the ship’s 1,814 crew members have come back negative for coronavirus, Efe news reported citing the Hong Kong Health Department as saying.
The cruise operator Dream Cruises has suspended the operation of the ship until further notice.
MS Westerdam, which docked in Hong Kong last week, was also banned from entering ports in the Philippines and Japan over fears passengers could be infected with the deadly disease, despite no knowledge of infections aboard.