Japan quarantines ship for virus tests

Guests on the Diamond Princess were asked to stay in their rooms to await screening for coronavirus.
Guests on the Diamond Princess were asked to stay in their rooms to await screening for coronavirus.

Japanese officials have begun screening more than 3700 passengers and crew on a cruise ship quarantined off the port of Yokohama near Tokyo after a Hong Kong man who sailed on the vessel last month tested positive for coronavirus.

The 80-year-old man flew to Japan and boarded the ship, the Diamond Princess, run by Carnival Japan Inc, in Yokohama on January 20 and disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25, the company says.

Photographs and video posted on Twitter by a passenger with the handle @daxa_tw showed health workers in full-length plastic gowns with white caps and face masks walking down a deserted corridor as well as views of empty lounges and a deserted deck.

Guests were asked to stay in their rooms to await screening. "This could take some time but it is necessary so we ask for your understanding and co-operation," an announcement said.

Japan was also preparing to expand the scope of its screening for the virus and test criteria after initial tests failed to detect the virus in some people who were later found to be infected, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Tuesday.

Opposition parties and some experts have criticised the government for responding too slowly to the risks posed by the virus spreading in China and elsewhere.

Japan has 20 confirmed coronavirus cases, of these 17 people have been in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the epidemic began.

Japan on Saturday began refusing entry to foreigners who have been in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, in the past 14 days as well as people with passports issued in Hubei province.

As of February 3, eight foreigners had been barred from entering Japan.

Australian Associated Press