2 cruise ship passengers succumb to virus

Source:Agencies Published: 2020/2/20 21:53:40

South Korea reports first death and 22 new cases

A passenger (left) disembarks from the Diamond Princess cruise ship - in quarantine due to fears of the novel coronavirus - at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on Wednesday. Relieved passengers began leaving the coronavirus-wracked cruise ship in Japan after testing negative for the disease (See stories on Page 4 and 15). Photo: AFP


Two former passengers on the coronavirus-wracked Diamond Princess have died, local media reported Thursday, as fears mount about those leaving the ship after testing negative for the disease.

The pair are a man and a woman in their 80s, said public broadcaster NHK, the first fatal cases among the more than 600 onboard the cruise ship.

Both had underlying conditions and were taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital, NHK said.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato offered partial confirmation but said he had to wait until families had been informed before making it official.

"I pray for their souls and offer condolences to their bereaved families," he told the members of the parliament.

"The two were sent to medical facilities when they showed symptoms. I believe that they received the best possible treatment," he said.

The huge vessel moored in Yokohama near Tokyo is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicenter, with 621 positive cases confirmed among the passengers and crew.

On Wednesday, 443 passengers disembarked after testing negative for the COVID-19 virus and not showing symptoms during a 14-day quarantine period. The complete removal of the passengers was expected to take at least three days.

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

But questions are increasingly being asked as to why former Diamond Princess passengers are able to roam freely around Japan's famously crowded cities, even if they have tested negative.

The Diamond Princess was quarantined on February 5 when a passenger who left in Hong Kong was found infected with the virus.

Passengers were confined to cabins except for brief trips on deck wearing masks and gloves, when they were told to keep their distance from others.

But a specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University rocked the boat with a video slamming "completely chaotic" quarantine procedures onboard, in rare criticism from a Japanese official. 

South Korea reported on Wednesday the first death in the country of a person infected with coronavirus and 22 new cases, bringing the total to 104.

Most of the cases are linked to a 61-year-old woman who is a member of an entity accused of being a cult.


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