A further 99 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the Japan coast have tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing total number of people infected on the ship to 454, the health ministry said Monday.
The additional cases on the ship docked at the port of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, include 43 Japanese nationals, the ministry said.
Virus checks have been conducted on 1,723 people on board. Of them, 454, including 212 Japanese nationals, have so far tested positive for the virus. Twenty people are in serious condition.
The ministry has announced plans to screen all people on the ship for the virus. In principle, those who tested negative will be disembarked starting Wednesday after their quarantine ends.
The ship that originally had over 3,700 passengers and crew on board has become the largest single cluster of the newly named COVID-19 disease outside its origin in China, where it has killed more than 1,100 people.
Those who remain on the ship have been asked to stay inside their cabins and allowed only briefly onto open decks, as long as they wear face masks.
Passengers have also been asked to keep a distance from each other when outside, and given thermometers to regularly monitor their temperatures.
The Diamond Princess was placed on a two-week quarantine on arriving at Yokohama on Feb. 3 after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.
The ship is expected to stay in quarantine until February 19, 14 days after the isolation period began.
When the boat arrived off Japan, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people of the 3,711 aboard for the virus, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities.
In recent days, testing has expanded and so far 492 people have been tested, mostly those showing symptoms or who have had close contact with a confirmed positive case.
“Currently we have the capacity to conduct up to 300 tests per day, but we are working… so that by the last day of the incubation period, February 18, we will be able to test up to 1,000,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a regular briefing.
The World Health Organization confirmed in a tweet Sunday that newly diagnosed cases on the ship should not extend the length of the quarantine.
“The quarantine period of the #DiamondPrincess will come to an end on 19 February,” the WHO said in a tweet. “The period will be extended beyond the 19 Feb as appropriate only for close contacts of newly confirmed cases. They need to remain in quarantine for 14 days from last contact with a confirmed case.”
The quarantine period of the #DiamondPrincess🚢 will come to an end on 19 February.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 9, 2020
The period will be extended beyond the 19 Feb as appropriate only for close contacts of newly confirmed cases. They need to remain in quarantine for 14 days from last contact with a confirmed case pic.twitter.com/SlaPaKFfwE
On board the ship, news of the additional infections sparked worry for some, with passenger Yardley Wong tweeting “stress and high anxiety”. “I need to cry to get off the anxiety,” she wrote.
Passengers also tweeted pictures of new supplies delivered to the quarantined passengers on Monday: wet wipes and heavy-duty filtration face masks.
A passenger with the Twitter handle daxa_tw posted an audio clip of the captain announcing the discovery of 66 new cases.