Published on : Thursday, February 20, 2020
A Japanese doctor who visited the Diamond Princess at the port in Yokohama said the situation on board was completely chaotic.
US officials said moves to contain the virus “may not have been sufficient”. Passengers have described the difficult quarantine situation on the vessel.
At least 542 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess have so far been infected by the Covid-19 virus – the biggest cluster outside mainland China.
The ship was carrying 3,700 people in total.
Several nations are evacuating their citizens from the ship as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.
Hundreds of American passengers were removed and placed in quarantine on Sunday. The UK said it hoped to fly 74 British nationals on the Diamond Princess back “later this week”.
A British couple on the ship – who had been giving regular updates to journalists via social media – confirmed on Wednesday they had tested positive for the virus.
The US, Canada, Australia and the UK will place all those released from the ship in another 14 days’ quarantine when they return home.
Several experts have questioned the effectiveness of the quarantine measures on the Diamond Princess.
“The rate of new infections on board, especially among those without symptoms, represents an ongoing risk,” it said in a statement, adding that travel restrictions had been imposed on “all passengers and crew” preventing them from entering the US.
Japanese officials have defended their approach, saying that the majority of infections likely occurred before the quarantine period.
About 500 people who tested negative and who are not showing any symptoms were expected to disembark the Diamond Princess on Wednesday, with more leaving in coming days.
The released passengers made their way onto waiting coaches or into taxis, reports the BBC’s Laura Bicker, who is at the port in Yokohama.
They will be allowed to return to life as normal, but will be contacted over a period of several days to check on their health, Japan’s health ministry said.
Those who tested negative but had shared cabins with infected people will have to remain on board for additional quarantine.
The passengers come from more than 50 countries, raising concerns the ship could become the source of a fresh wave of global infections, our correspondent says.
South Korea, which reported 15 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, said it would ban entry to any foreign passengers of the Diamond Princess.
The cruise ship was put in quarantine in Yokohama in early February after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.
Passengers were initially isolated in their cabins and later allowed to sporadically go out on deck.
Despite the quarantine measures, day by day the number of people to test positive for the Covid-19 virus grew rapidly.
Media captionAmericans are taken from the docked ship to Haneda airport in Tokyo
Covid-19 has now claimed 2,004 lives in China, according to the latest Chinese data released on Wednesday.
There have been 74,185 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and about 700 cases in other countries.
Hong Kong on Wednesday said a 70-year-old man with underlying illnesses became the territory’s second fatality. France, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan have each had one death attributed to the virus.
China on Monday released a detailed study of more than 44,000 confirmed cases indicating that the overwhelming number of deaths occur among the sick and elderly.