Another 44 people on board a cruise ship moored off Japan’s coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country’s health minister said Thursday.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were from another 221 new tests. They raise the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to a quarantine officer who also tested positive for the virus.
Kato said authorities now want to move elderly people off the ship if they test negative for the virus, offering to put them in government-designated lodging.
“On the ship, there are those of advanced age and with pre-existing conditions,” he told reporters.
“There are also those who are having to stay in rooms with no windows until the incubation period finishes” on February 19, he added.
“We will conduct… tests for those who are high-risk and if they test negative, those who wish to disembark can go and live in a lodging facility that the government will prepare.”
“We wish to start the operation from tomorrow or later,” he said.
Of the newly diagnosed cases, 43 are passengers, and one a member of the crew.
Kato said five people from the ship are currently in serious condition in hospital, four of whom have tested positive for the virus. Test results for the fifth are still being processed.
The Diamond Princess has been moored off Japan since February 3, after it emerged that a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month had tested positive for the virus now named COVID-19.