Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases followed another 221 new tests that had been conducted by health officials. Of the newly diagnosed infections, 43 are passengers, and one is a member of the crew.
It brings the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to an official who participated in the initial quarantine checks the night the ship returned to Yokohama Port near Tokyo on Feb. 3. The quarantine official is being treated in a hospital.
The captain of the ship, Stefano Ravera, in an announcement this afternoon, said that everybody over the age of 80 has now been tested for the Novel Coronavirus and that some passengers on the ship will be allowed to disembark early, CNN reported.
Those allowed to leave include passengers 80 years or over with a chronic medical condition, who test negative for the virus; passengers 80 years or over staying in an inside cabin, who test negative for the virus; and other passengers under 80 who have been given a test for any other reason, and tested negative.
However, those who leave the ship early will be required to stay in accommodation managed by the Japanese government for the time being.
Kato told reporters that the operation to remove those passengers who tested negative for the virus will begin “from tomorrow or later.”
“We are doing our utmost for the health of crew members and passengers who remain on the ship,” Kato added.
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus will not be allowed to disembark, and off-shore hospital arrangements are being made for those who have tested positive.
The U.S.-operated Diamond Princess has been moored off Japan since Feb. 3, after it emerged that a former male passenger, 80, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month during its 14-day tour of Asian ports, had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Hong Kong swiftly notified the ship and Japanese authorities, who then ordered the testing and quarantine of the ship’s 3,700 passengers and crew, who have been asked to remain on board until Feb. 19.
Those who remain onboard are being asked to stay in their cabins, wear masks, and maintain a 6-foot distance from others (pdf).
A statement issued by Princess Cruises last week said it would be refunding “the full cruise fare for all guests including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities, and other items,” following the “extraordinary circumstances” onboard.
“In addition, guests will not be charged for any onboard incidental charges during the additional time onboard. Princess Cruises will also provide guests with a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for the voyage which ended on Feb. 4,” they said.
Crew members will also receive their designated gratuities for the work performed, the company added.