Around 100 more passengers disembark coronavirus-stricken Japan cruise ship

Mask-clad passengers prepare to board a bus after disembarking from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, in Yokohama on February 21, 2020. (AFP)

Around 100 more passengers were allowed to disembark from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship on Saturday as Japan’s health minister apologized after 23 others were allowed to leave without being properly tested.

The 100 passengers who left on Saturday had been in close contact with infected people on board, local media said.

They included the last group of Japanese passengers to leave the ship while some foreign passengers were still waiting on board for chartered aircraft to be sent by their governments. Around 970 passengers disembarked earlier this week.

Television footage showed a driver in a white protective suit at the wheel of a bus with the curtains drawn so that passengers could not be identified.

They will be quarantined for two weeks near Tokyo, officials said.

At a news conference on Saturday, Health minister Katsunobu Kato apologized that 23 passengers had been allowed to disembark from the ship without undergoing all the required tests.

“We deeply regret that our operational mistake caused the situation,” Kato said, adding that the passengers would be tested again.

With the latest disembarkation, a 14-day quarantine is expected to start for more than 1,000 crew still on board as many of them did not undergo isolation because they were needed to keep the ship running.

They were preparing food and delivering meals to cabins, leading some critics to charge they were inadvertently spreading the virus throughout the ship, which has seen more than 600 cases of the potentially deadly COVID-19 disease.

Kato defended Japan’s on-board quarantine, telling a TV program Saturday there was no medical facility large enough to admit more than 3,000 people at once.

Speaking at the news conference, Kato said six Australian passengers tested positive after leaving Japan.

Kato also confirmed that a Japanese hospital on Saturday used the anti-influenza medication Avigan, also known as Favipiravir, to treat a patient infected with the virus.

Earlier in the day, Kato said the government would push for the use of such medicines if they were confirmed to be effective.

Outside the Diamond Princess, Japan has seen 105 cases of the new coronavirus.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:54 - GMT 06:54
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