Coronavirus: two Japanese passengers from Diamond Princess have died, reports say

Japan is ramping up efforts to counter mounting criticism about its emergency response to the new coronavirus outbreak, especially its handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined at a port in Yokohama near Tokyo.

Pressure has been mounting on the Government to evacuate Britons in light of the cramped conditions on board and the fact the number diagnosed with the virus on the ship continues to rise.

In a preliminary report issued Wednesday, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said the substantial transmission of the virus occurred before the February 5 implementation of the quarantine and that a downtrend in the number of confirmed cases based on reported onset dates indicated secondary transmission among passengers was reduced during the process.

Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said in a report issued Wednesday that no new cases of the onset of the COVID-19 disease from the cruise ship were reported on February 16-17 and only one crew member case on February 15.

Now, according to The Telegraph, Brits from the ship are set to be flown home.

More passengers left the ship on Thursday, packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports for home.

Confirming the repatriation plans for the British passengers, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesman said: "We are planning an evacuation flight from Tokyo to the United Kingdom as soon as possible for Britons who are on the Diamond Princess".

"Is it really safe to get off?" screamed a headline in the Nikkan Sports tabloid.

About 440 passengers had left the ship by Wednesday evening, and Japanese officials said more than 1,000 others will be gone by Friday.

"I thought I could be infected during the four days. I thought "Is it really ok"?"

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Of the 400 Americans who were aboard the Diamond Princess, about 100 remain in Japan at hospitals or on the ship.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters that the 500 or so Filipinos returning home will be screened before disembarking from the ship and, after arriving in the Philippines, will be quarantined in New Clark City, CNN Philippines reported.

In addition, risky and safe areas were strictly divided and there was a station installed for safely removing contaminated gear, the ministry said.

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. He said those who are free of the virus would be released after their 14-day quarantine period ends.

He called it "chaotic" and said it made him scared of getting infected himself.

"I was in Africa dealing with the Ebola outbreak".

He added: "Wi-fi will not work for me, so this will be the final communication for some time".

As for the evacuation plans for Indonesian citizens on the Diamond Princess, Muhadjir went on to say, that the government had to think of another approach since the situation was different from that in Wuhan.

Two passengers with coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have died, according to Japanese news reports.

Outside the Diamond Princess, Japan has seen 84 cases.

  • Ismael Montgomery