Another 44 people on board a cruise ship moored off Japan's coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country's health minister said Thursday.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were from another 221 new tests. They raise the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to a quarantine officer who also tested positive for the virus.
Kato said authorities now want to move elderly people off the ship if they test negative for the virus, offering to put them in government-designated lodging.
"We wish to start the operation from tomorrow or later," Kato told reporters.
Of the newly diagnosed infections, 43 are passengers, and one a member of the crew. The Diamond Princess has been moored off Japan since February 3, after it emerged that a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month had tested positive for the virus now named COVID-19. The ship was placed into quarantine shortly afterwards and authorities have asked passengers and crew to remain on board until February 19.
Those who have tested positive for the new virus have been taken off the ship to medical facilities, but questions have been raised about whether the quarantine on the ship is working, with dozens of new cases diagnosed almost daily.
Passengers are confined to cabins and required to wear masks and keep their distance from each other when they are allowed out for brief periods on open decks.