Another 41 people on a cruise liner off Japan have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed cases to 61, with thousands of passengers confined to cabins as testing continues.
The cruise ship, Diamond Princess, and the roughly 3700 people aboard have been under two-week quarantine since arriving back at the port of Yokohama, just south of Tokyo after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.
The total 61 cases came from a sample of 273 people who had been tested because they were either showing symptoms or had been in close contact with those who did, according to the health ministry.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference 21 of the newly found 41 cases were Japanese. Five were Australian, bringing the total number of Australians to test positive on board to seven.
Further tests would be conducted if additional passengers on board the ship developed symptoms, he said.
Live TV footage showed blue and white hoardings put up in the vessel where passengers diagnosed with the virus were being moved out to medical facilities.
The new patients would be transported to hospitals in Tokyo and neighbouring towns, the health ministry said.
The rise in the number of infections has worsened the mood for thousands of passengers stuck on the cruise, who were only allowed out for brief periods to breathe fresh air on open decks.
Several had previously said they were longing to get out and see the sky.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter, an American whose parents are on the boat, said she hoped US officials would be able to help her parents leave the boat.
"They are all breathing circulated contaminated air so they could be getting everyone infected," Rhodes-Courter told Reuters.
The virus can be transmitted via droplets from an infected person exhaling, coughing or sneezing, and can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as door handles.
Experts have said it is more easily transmitted than the SARS virus.
The new ship cases take the total number of coronavirus infections in Japan to more than 80.
Health Minister Kato said Japan is not including the cruise ship cases in its national count, which stands at 21 patients.
With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics less than half a year away, Games organisers have set up a task force to deal with the situation.
Australian Associated Press