• Kyodo


Two more Japanese men were confirmed to have been infected with the new coronavirus after returning home from Wuhan on government-chartered planes late January, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The confirmation brought the total number of those who have tested positive for the deadly pneumonia-causing virus in Japan to 163, including 135 from a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama.

The two men, one in his 40s and the other in his 50s, had tested negative in initial testing, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

After the negative test, the man in his 40s stayed at his home from Feb. 1 but developed a 39.5 Celsius fever Saturday, the ministry said. He was hospitalized Monday at a medical facility in Saitama Prefecture after being found to have developed pneumonia.

While staying at a hotel for Wuhan evacuees in Chiba Prefecture, the second man was hospitalized at a medical institution in the prefecture after developing a fever of 38.5 C on Friday, and tested positive for the virus on Monday.

Also Tuesday, health authorities began conducting new coronavirus tests to give the all-clear to some 170 who returned on a government-chartered plane from Wuhan on Jan. 29 in the first evacuation flight for Japanese nationals from the city. They have been quarantined at a hotel in Chiba Prefecture.

If the test results come up negative, they will be allowed to go home. The results are expected to be released Wednesday.

Japan has brought back a total of 763 Japanese and their non-Japanese family members on four chartered planes since late last month. The overall number of confirmed cases in Japan includes 10 people who evacuated from Wuhan on government-chartered flights.

On Monday, the ministry said an additional 65 people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship had tested positive for the virus.

U.S. company Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., the operator of the Diamond Princess, had earlier said 66 new cases of the virus were confirmed, but the ministry said there could be overlapping with the operator’s figure.

As passengers have apparently been under stress during their prolonged isolation on the ship, the government is planning to allow the elderly and those with chronic illnesses to disembark soon, possibly Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said.

Approximately 3,600 passengers and crew members were scheduled to be isolated aboard the ship through Feb. 19 to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus in Japan. The ship has been kept in quarantine since a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected with the virus.

The ship departed Yokohama near Tokyo Jan. 20 and returned Feb. 3 after visiting Kagoshima Prefecture, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa. Those confirmed to be infected upon arrival have been hospitalized in Japan.

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