At least 10 on Japan cruise ship have new coronavirus: minister
At least 10 people on a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Japan's health minister said on Wednesday.
Japan quarantined the vessel carrying 3,711 people and began testing those on board for the virus after a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the illness.
Meanwhile, hundreds of travelers on board a cruise ship that docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday will be allowed to leave the vessel after health checks, the operator said, despite three recent passengers testing positive for coronavirus.
More than 20 countries have confirmed cases of the virus, which has killed nearly 500 people and infected more than 24,000 on China's mainland.
Japan's Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters that specimens were collected from 273 people on board the Diamond Princess, which arrived in Yokohama Bay on Monday.
So far, the results of 31 tests are available, with 10 confirmed to have the virus, he said.
The 10 who tested positive were removed from the vessel in the early morning and sent to medical facilities, the minister added.
The rest of the passengers and crew on board the ship will be required to stay on the vessel for 14 days, Kato said, citing the medical consensus that the new virus has an incubation period of up to two weeks.
"We ask people on board to behave in a way to avoid infection while we continue the quarantine process," Kato said.
The cruise operator said around half the passengers on board the ship are Japanese, with the rest from elsewhere, though there were no immediate details on their nationalities.
In a statement, Carnival-owned Princess Cruises confirmed the ship would be in quarantine for two weeks and said its planned eight-day round trip had been cancelled.
It said the ship would move further out to sea "to perform normal marine operations" including freshwater production, before returning close to Yokohama, "where food, provisions and other supplies will be brought onboard."
Two more Diamond Princess departures from Yokohama, scheduled for February 4 and 12, had now been cancelled, it added.
Japan has now confirmed 23 cases of the new coronavirus excluding the cruise ship infections, among them citizens returning from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.
There have also been several incidences of apparent person-to-person transmission in Japan, including a tour guide and bus driver who contracted the virus after coming into contact with visitors from Wuhan.
Neither had visited China in recent months.