Another 79 people have tested positive for COVID-19 on board a cruise ship that has been quarantined for two weeks – as passengers and crew have started disembarking.
As the controversial quarantine on the Diamond Princess ended on Wednesday the extra cases were confirmed, bringing the total on the ship to 621.
About 500 people are going to be allowed to leave the ship on Wednesday, and about 2,000 others will be gradually evacuated by Friday.
The ship is currently moored off the coast of Yokohama in Japan, and the Foreign Office is hopeful that affected Britons will be able to get a flight back to the UK later this week.
Officials have warned British passengers and crew they may not be able to get on the plane if they leave the ship – and that they will need to complete another 14 days of isolation when they land in Britain.
Vicki Presland, an Australian tourist on board the Diamond Princess, has said she is “very keen to get off this ship” after being confined to her cabin.
Passengers who have tested negative for the coronavirus and have no symptoms have had to get their body temperature checked before they are allowed to disembark.
Some people in their ship cabins waved farewell from their balconies as fellow passengers returned to dry land, with soldiers helping to escort the elderly.
A 77-year-old Japanese man, who disembarked with his wife, told Kyodo News: “I’m a bit concerned if I’m okay to get off the ship, but it was getting very difficult physically. For now, we just want to celebrate.”
Crew members, who have continued working throughout the two-week quarantine period, are expected to stay on the ship.
New cases of COVID-19 have continued to emerge on board – 88 people tested positive on Tuesday, and 99 on Monday.
In other developments:
- More than 2,000 people worldwide have now died from COVID-19 since the outbreak began
- Six of these deaths were outside mainland China – with the latest fatality reported in Hong Kong
- The number of new suspected and confirmed cases in China has fallen for the second day in a row
- Global health experts say it is too early to predict how the coronavirus epidemic will play out.
On Tuesday, a study of 45,000 confirmed COVID-19 patients – carried about by Chinese health officials – revealed that about 80% of cases were mild.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said 14% had severe symptoms such as pneumonia and 5% had critical symptoms.
The sick and elderly were most at risk and medical staff are at a high risk, the report found.
Men were more likely to die, with a 2.8% mortality rate, while women had a 1.7% chance of dying.
The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, has spoken to Xi Jinping on the phone – telling the president that he “loves China” and stands ready to fight “shoulder to shoulder” against COVID-19.