Hundreds of people on board the Diamond Princess are bracing for an even longer quarantine despite the official end of the lockdown tomorrow.
Passengers who had close contact with any of the virus patients on board will have to finish a 14-day quarantine from the date they last saw them.
The ship’s crew, many of whom have been supervising guests and delivering food, are also expected to observe another quarantine after the last guests have left.
Others are still awaiting test results, with a further 169 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the last two days.
Even for those who can leave, Japan’s health minister said today that the process of disembarking will take two to three days.
Hundreds of people on board the Diamond Princess (pictured in Yokohama today) are bracing for an even longer quarantine despite the official end of the lockdown tomorrow
Passengers are seen on the Diamond Princess today where a two-week lockdown is due to end tomorrow but many face a longer spell in quarantine
‘Everyone wants to return home as soon as possible, so considering that feeling, we are making preparations,’ health minister Kato told reporters today.
‘We have done tests for everyone.
‘Some results have already come out… and for those whose test results are already clear, we are working to prepare disembarkation from the 19th,’ he said.
Yokohama health authorities will take all the passengers’ temperatures before they leave the ship.
The February 19 end date has been scheduled for more than two weeks.
However, the 14-day quarantine has been reset to zero for passengers who had close contact with infected patients, starting again from the date of their last contact.
The number of confirmed patients has been rising steadily, reaching more than 450 yesterday after another 99 cases were confirmed.
British passengers David and Sally Abel said today they had tested positive, meaning the number is likely to be revised upwards again.
Therefore, there could be hundreds more who have had contact with infected passengers and are now facing further quarantine.
It is unclear whether they will stay on the Diamond Princess, which is anchored in Yokohama, or move to the mainland.
A TV cameraman films the quarantined Diamond Princess which has been anchored in Yokohama for most of the last two weeks
Passengers on the deck of the cruise ship, which was ordered into quarantine by Japanese authorities two weeks ago after a former passenger caught the virus
Crew members are also expected to remain to observe another quarantine period after the last passengers leave the ship.
More than 300 Americans were evacuated from the ship early on Monday, among them over a dozen who have tested positive for the virus.
The evacuees are now facing another 14-day quarantine after they landed in North America yesterday.
South Korea, Canada and now Britain are among several other countries lining up evacuation flights.
At least another 11 elderly passengers have left the ship to finish the quarantine in Japanese government housing on the mainland.
Only certain passengers, who were aged over 80 and had windowless cabins or separate medical conditions, were eligible for the move.
About 80 per cent of the ship’s passengers are 60 or older, with 215 in their 80s and 11 in their 90s, according to Japanese media.
With 454 patients, 340 Americans and 11 elderly passengers either off the ship or about to be, the number still on board has fallen from 3,711 to around 2,900.
A passenger stands on a balcony of the Diamond Princess, where nearly 3,000 people are still on board
Medical staff wearing protective suits are seen at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal where the Diamond Princess is anchored
Japan has also confirmed at least 65 cases domestically, including many involving people with no history of recent travel to China.
Authorities have said the virus is being transmitted locally now, and have asked citizens to avoid crowds and non-essential gatherings.
On Monday, the amateur portion of the Tokyo Marathon, which had been expected to attract some 38,000 runners, was cancelled. Only elite athletes will now be able to take part.
The public celebration for Emperor Naruhito’s birthday has also been scrapped over virus fears.
The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people in total with nearly 72,500 people confirmed to have the virus.
The official death toll in China hit 1,868 today after another 98 people died, mostly in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei.
Five people have died outside mainland China – in France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The virus is believed to have emerged in a market selling wild animals in Wuhan last year before spreading across China.