Japan has quarantined a cruise ship with 3,711 people on board after a former passenger was infected with coronavirus.
Passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess were being tested for the virus today with eight people showing symptoms such as fever.
An 80-year-old passenger who left the ship in Hong Kong on January 25 has since tested positive for the virus, which has killed 425 people in China.
Quarantine specialists in hazmat suits boarded the vessel today in Yokohama Bay where the ship is expected to remain for at least 24 hours.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the ship had already been quarantined on Saturday at the port of Naha, but the 80-year-old man’s diagnosis has now forced further checks.
None of the 2,666 passengers or 1,045 crew showed any symptoms during Saturday’s tests, a health ministry official said.
However, officials now say that eight people on the vessel have symptoms such as fever.
Passengers with symptoms are being checked for coronavirus as well as other infectious diseases such as malaria, officials say.
In addition, any passengers who got off in Hong Kong or had close contact with the infected man will be subject to tests for coronavirus.
Until the results are in ‘everyone on board… will stay there’, Japan’s health minister Katsunobu Kato said.
The 80-year-old patient ‘did not visit a medical centre inside the ship while he was sailing with us’, according to cruise operator Carnival Japan.
‘According to the hospital where he is staying, his condition is stable and infection was not found among his family members who sailed with him,’ they said.
One passenger told broadcaster TBS today that all the passengers had been asked to stay in their rooms and wait for tests.
A decision on whether to allow the vessel to dock at Yokohama port and let passengers land on Japanese soil ‘will be made at the quarantine station’, said Suga, the government spokesman.
Japan has already barred foreign nationals who have been to Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
People with passports issued in Hubei are also banned from Japan in a bid to contain the crisis.
Visitors who display symptoms of the new virus when they arrive in Japan can also be denied entry.
A total of 11 foreigners have been barred from entering so far, the immigration service agency said today.
The health ministry said that 20 people in Japan had tested positive for the new virus as of Monday, of whom four showed no symptoms.
Japan has also flown more than 500 citizens out of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated.
The disease is believed to have emerged in a market in Wuhan that sold wild animals, spreading rapidly as people travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday in late January.
The virus has so far spread to more than 20 countries, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency.
In addition, Hong Kong today announced that a 39-year-old coronavirus patient had died in hospital – only the second fatality outside mainland China.