TOKYO – Japan said on Thursday it had confirmed 44 more infections of a new deadly coronavirus on board a quarantined cruise in its waters and said it would authorize unaffected people over 80 to disembark and end their isolation period on land.
Some 218 COVID-19 cases have already been detected aboard the Princess Diamond cruise ship, on which 3,700 people have been quarantined since Feb. 3 at the Yokohama port, south of Tokyo, after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the illness.
In his daily press conference about the status of those on board, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases came from tests carried out on 221 people.
Counting the cases detected on land, Japan has already confirmed 247 cases of coronavirus under its jurisdiction, the largest number outside China, where the country’s authorities said Thursday that close to 60,000 had been infected.
Provincial authorities in Hubei said 1,310 had died in the province, where the illness’ outbreak is linked to fish markets in its capital Wuhan. Thursday’s national count was still unknown as of press time.
The health ministry also announced its decision to authorize the disembarkation of those over 80 with underlying health problems and whose rooms lack windows.
Of the 2,666 passengers aboard the ship when the quarantine began (those who tested positive were already transferred to hospital centers), 226 are over 80.
The possibility that Japan allowed the disembarkation of elderly passengers had been considered for several days after medical experts said the stress generated by remaining in the ship for so long could aggravate their health.
The World Health Organization on Tuesday officially named the disease COVID-19, while the virus which causes it has been called SARS-CoV-2 (changed from its provisional name 2019-nCoV) by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
The organization said “CO” stands for “corona,” “VI” for “virus, “D” for “disease” and “-19” for “2019” – as the outbreak was first detected Dec. 31.
COVID-19’s symptoms are in many cases similar to those of a cold but may be accompanied by fever, fatigue, dry cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath).