Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds more cases of the novel coronavirus on board the ship Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined off the coast of Japan since early February, The Guardian reported on Monday. Hundreds of American citizens have flown back home and will be further quarantined on their arrival. Meanwhile, Australia has said that it would evacuate its citizens on Wednesday.
As many as 328 Americans were flown home via chartered flights on Monday, Japan Times reported. However, 44 have stayed back in Japan for medical treatment. A US official said 355 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 out of an original tally of about 3,600 passengers and crew.
As many as 14 passengers, who had disembarked from the ship and were preparing to fly to the United States, were found to be infected with the virus, AFP reported. However, they were allowed on board after isolating them from other passengers. “These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The department said all passengers are being closely monitored. “Any who become symptomatic will be moved to the specialized containment area, where they will be treated,” the statement said.
Japanese authorities have advised people to avoid large crowds and and non-essential gatherings. On Monday, the outbreak forced a hospital in Tokyo to stop accepting new patients. The hospital said it stopped accepting patients after one of its nurses, who had treated a patient, tested positive.
Meanwhile, government officials in Xiaogan, a city bordering Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, have banned citizens from leaving it, under penalty of a 10-day detention, the South China Morning Post reported. The city has a population of five million.
The toll in the coronavirus outbreak rose to 1,770 on Sunday, as 105 new fatalities were reported in Monday morning’s daily update. The country also reported 2,048 new confirmed cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country now stands at 70,548. The global toll as of midnight on Sunday stood at 1,775.
In Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, 1,933 new confirmed cases were reported. Of the 105 new deaths, 100 were from the Hubei province.
There has been a significant drop in the number of new cases since Friday. Mi Feng, the spokesperson for the National Health Commission, on Sunday said the proportion of people confirmed to be infected who were critically ill had fallen to 22% on Saturday, from 32% on January 27. Mi claimed that the figures indicated that “the effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing”.
India has so far reported three cases, but one of the patients has been discharged, and the others are said to be in a stable condition.