Four Indian crew members on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess, docked at a harbour in Yokohama in Japan, have tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 12 Indians have now tested positive for COVID-19 on board the ship. “Unfortunately, results received as of 1200 JST (Japan Standard Time) include 4 Indian crew members having tested positive,” the Indian embassy in Japan tweeted.

All passengers who have tested negative for the virus have now been allowed to deboard the ship. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said around 1,000 passengers and crew will be left on board the vessel after all others have disembarked.

A total of 138 Indians, including 132 crew and 6 passengers, were among the 3,711 people on board the ship when it docked at the Yokohama port near Tokyo, on February 3. The ship was placed in quarantine when a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month was found to be infected with the coronavirus.

Passengers from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan are being screened at 21 airports in India for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus. So far, over 3.97 lakh flight passengers and 9,695 travellers at sea ports have been screened. India has reported three cases of the coronavirus so far, but no deaths have taken place. On Saturday, India advised its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Singapore.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Sunday that 23 passengers left the vessel without being tested for the coronavirus, AP reported. Kato said the 23 were tested before the quarantine began on February 5, but were allowed to leave the ship on Wednesday and Thursday without rechecking. He added that since, three of them have been tested negative, and the others have agreed to undergo testing.

“We deeply regret that there was an operational error,” Kato said at a news conference. “We will examine what went wrong so we will not repeat the same mistake.” Japan has so far confirmed more than 750 cases of the new virus, of which 634 came from the Diamond Princess.

Russia denies US allegations

Russia’s foreign ministry on Saturday denied claims by US officials that Russian-linked social media accounts were making a coordinated effort to spread alarm about the coronavirus, AFP reported. “This is a deliberately false story,” spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

Officials from the US State Department had alleged that Russia was using thousands of fake personas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote the conspiracy theory that America had created the COVID-19. “Russia’s intent is to sow discord and undermine US institutions and alliances from within, including through covert and coercive malign influence campaigns,” said Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia.

Toll so far

Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, reported 630 new cases of infection and 96 more deaths on Saturday, the South China Morning Post reported. Overall, mainland China reported 648 more confirmed cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 76,936. The toll rose to 2,442, with 97 more fatalities, including one in Guangdong province.

Excluding Hubei, there were 18 more cases, the lowest figure on any day this month. As many as 21 Chinese provinces did not report a single case on Saturday.

South Korea reported two more deaths and at least 123 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, The Guardian reported on Sunday. This takes the total number of infected persons in the country to 556 and the number of deaths to four.

Of the 123 cases, 75 are related to the Shincheonji church in Daegu city and to a hospital. The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it has placed more than 9,000 members of the church in quarantine, and examined thousands of worshipers.

So far, 18 persons who have fully recovered from the virus have been discharged from hospitals, the centre said.

However, 18 South Koreans who made a pilgrimage to Israel earlier this month have been found infected, The Korea Times reported on Sunday, quoting health authorities. Most of the pilgrims are from North Gyeongsang province, the most affected region. They went to Israel on February 8 and returned on February 16, while their tour guide is living in the capital city of Seoul.