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Coronavirus outbreak: 39 additional cases of virus confirmed on cruise ship near Tokyo

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Cruise ship Diamond Princess anchoring off the Yokohama Port Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, near Tokyo.
Cruise ship Diamond Princess anchoring off the Yokohama Port Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, near Tokyo.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko   -   Eugene Hoshiko
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An additional 39 passengers on a cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, bringing the total of cases linked to the ship to at least 169.

Japanese authorities had placed the Diamond Princess ship under quarantine after some guests tested positive for the virus.

Cruise guests who test positive for the virus are evacuated from the ship by the Japanese Coast Guard and transported to a medical institution, said Japan's health and labour minister Katsunobu Katō and the cruise company.

In a public television interview posted online earlier this month by the health ministry, Katō said that there were over 200 people on the ship who had symptoms and were being tested.

The ship will remain under quarantine in Yokohama until February 19, Princess Cruises said in a statement.

"The ship plans to go out to sea to perform normal marine operations including, but not limited to, the production of fresh water and ballast operations before proceeding alongside in Yokohama where food, provisions, and other supplies will be brought onboard," an earlier statement said.

Cruise passenger David Abel, from the UK, is on the ship.

In one of his posts at “11:50 am” local time, on February 5, Abel said he had not eaten since 7 pm the night before.

“I’m a diabetic and I’m insulin-dependent. It’s now of a concern. I hope this message gets back to Princess Cruises. The reality for me is if I don’t eat something very soon I will be in a coma.”

Abel, who told Storyful he was from the village of Woodford Halse near Banbury in Oxfordshire, posted a number of Facebook Live videos about his situation on the vessel as well as images (below) showing often busy parts of the ship completely deserted.

The new strain of coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China on December 31. It has since infected tens of thousands of people and killed hundreds.

A total of 3,700 people from 56 different countries are on board the ship. Approximately half the guests were Japanese, Princess Cruises said.

The sixty-six people who recently tested positive for coronavirus include four Australians, one person from Canada, one person from England, 45 people from Japan, three people from the Philippines, one person from Ukraine, and eleven Americans.

Those who test positive for the virus are "eligible for measures such as hospitalisation based on the Infectious Diseases Law," Katō said.

The ship left Yokohama, Japan near Tokyo on January 20 for a 14-day cruise. One guest from Hong Kong left the cruise on January 25 and tested positive for coronavirus on February 1.

Two upcoming Diamond Princess cruises in February have been cancelled due to the quarantine. Due to the circumstances, the cruise company said they would "refund the full cruise fare for all guests including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities, and other items".

On January 31, Princess Cruises tweeted that they were following the coronavirus situation, emphasising that "the risk to our guests & crew is low".