Japan is preventing passengers from leaving a cruise ship after a male passenger was found to be infected with the coronavirus when he disembarked in Hong Kong late last month, the health ministry said.Several dozen quarantine officers were checking the health of the 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew members, Japan’s health ministry said on Tuesday.
The vessel arrived at Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Monday evening, with passengers informed that their departure would be delayed for 24 hours while tests were carried out, according to Kyodo news agency.
At least seven people on the vessel said they felt unwell, Kyodo said. The results of their tests will be available on Tuesday.The infected passenger, a Hong Kong resident in his 80s, tested positive for the virus last weekend after returning home on the vessel on 25 January, authorities in Hong Kong said. He had boarded the cruise liner at Yokohama on 20 January. The ship has since made stops in Vietnam, Taiwan and the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
A cruise ship Diamond Princess anchors off the Yokohama Port, near Tokyo on 4 February. Photograph: AP
The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Japan would work closely with the World Health Organization to ensure that the virus, which has infected 20 people in Japan, does not disrupt preparations for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.“We will closely work with the World Health Organization and others to make sure that preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics proceed without any impact from the outbreak,” Abe told MPs.The Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said the Games’ organisers and sports associations could meet this week to discuss their response to the outbreak, days after organisers addressed false online rumours that the Games would be cancelled.MPs in Japan, where 20 people have tested positive for the respiratory illness, have called on the Abe administration to do more to protect the public, including making tests more widely available. Testing is currently conducted only at government-run or public institutions, such as the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo.“We have already started developing a simple test kit,” Abe said, adding that improving the testing regime was an “urgent task”. Japan is preventing foreign nationals who have been to Hubei in the previous two weeks from entering the country, joining other countries in imposing travel restrictions in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei are also barred.The government’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said eight people had been prevented from entering Japan over the weekend.