The Diamond Princess, with more than 3,700 passengers and crew on board, had been prevented from sailing on Monday after an 80-year-old passenger who had traveled on the vessel late last month tested positive after he arrived home in Hong Kong.
For this reason, thousands of people face spending the next fortnight stuck on a luxury cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama after initial results showed ten passengers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Deaths from a new virus rose to 490 in mainland China on Wednesday, while new cases on a Japanese cruise ship in Hong Kong and Thailand showed the increasing spread of the outbreak and renewed attention toward containing it.
The new infections come in addition to 23 people already confirmed to have contracted the disease in Japan. A total of 273 people on board are being tested for the virus. Three of the ten people infected with the virus are Japanese, as are about half the passengers onboard the ship.
Nine are passengers—two Australian, three Japanese, three from Hong Kong and one from the U.S.—and one is a Filipino crew member, ship operator Princess Cruises said in a statement. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Japan “will take full measures to prevent the infection from spreading.”
“The remaining passengers and crew will not be allowed to come ashore for the time being — we will have them remain aboard for the necessary period,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in parliament Wednesday. “Checking the health of the passengers and crew is our priority, while we will also do all possible to prevent any spread of the infection.”
In Hong Kong, hospital workers are striking to demand the border with mainland China be shut completely to ward off the virus, but four new cases without known travel to the mainland indicate the illness is spreading locally in the territory.
Mr. Kato said that in principle, everyone on the ship would be required to remain there for 14 days, starting Wednesday. He said he didn’t know when the remainder of the test results would be available.
Princess Cruises said the ship would go out to sea before docking at Yokohama to take on provisions. The ship would be resupplied with food and other necessities at Yokohama port on Wednesday. It will also provide free Wi-Fi service and telephone lines.
Two cruises that had been scheduled to depart Yokohama Feb. 4 and 12 have been canceled, the company said. “Princess Cruises will continue to fully cooperate with and follow the instructions of global medical authorities and the Japanese government,” it said in a statement.