Two passengers die from coronavirus on doomed cruise ship Diamond Princess

Two passengers from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, according to local media.  

The victims were a man and a woman in their 80s, NHK reported on Thursday, citing a government source. 

Both had underlying conditions and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital. 

More than 620 of the passengers have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people on board. 

On Wednesday, 443 passengers disembarked after testing negative for the COVID-19 virus and not showing symptoms during a 14-day quarantine period. 

Two passengers from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, according to local media

Two passengers from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, according to local media

Two passengers from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, according to local media 

A passenger stands on a balcony of the Diamond Princess, where nearly 3,000 people are still on board

A passenger stands on a balcony of the Diamond Princess, where nearly 3,000 people are still on board

A passenger stands on a balcony of the Diamond Princess, where nearly 3,000 people are still on board 

Another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said. 

Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew. 

The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete.

More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a pre-dawn departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine.

Buses escorted by police cars transported the Australian passengers from Yokohama to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport late Wednesday. 

The buses drove the Australians straight to the tarmac, where they boarded the government-chartered plane.

Medical staff wearing protective suits are seen at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal where the Diamond Princess is anchored

Medical staff wearing protective suits are seen at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal where the Diamond Princess is anchored

Medical staff wearing protective suits are seen at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal where the Diamond Princess is anchored

Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said. An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights.

A U.S. State Department official said there were still about 45 U.S. citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday.

Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. 

Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, when asked on Wednesday why Japanese leaving the ship did not have to spend another two weeks in quarantine, referred to the advice of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID).

The NIID said there should be no problem if people had shown no symptoms for 14 days and had tested negative for the virus during the period their health was under surveillance.

Besides those on the cruise liner and returnees brought home from Wuhan, China, about 70 cases of domestic infections have been confirmed in Japan, including 25 in Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The spread of the virus has raised concerns about planning for the Tokyo Summer Olympics as well as the impact on Japan’s economy.

The rapid spread of the disease – Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China – has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan’s response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis.

In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus.

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