The 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess continue to be tested and diagnosed with coronavirus, with 44 more passengers diagnosed yesterday with the virus.
The passengers are currently at day eight of their 14-day quarantine ending February 19.
There are currently 219 cases linked to the ship, 150 of them confirmed in this week alone. Of the 219 cases, there are 206 passengers, 12 are crew members and one Japanese quarantine officer.
The Australian Department of Health confirms that there are 15 Australian passengers have tested positive for coronavirus, including a 21-year-old Melbourne woman. There are 225 Australian passengers and three Australian crew are on board, approximately half the guests onboard from Japan.
In the latest update by Japan’s health ministry, eight infected people on board are in serious condition. There are also two additional people on board in serious condition, one has not been confirmed to be infected, while the other is waiting for the result of a virus test, NHK Japan reported.
In addition to the four passengers are announced to be in serious condition in the hospital on Wednesday, there are now 14 seriously ill people from the Diamond Princess.
The ministry also adds that as of Thursday, 713 people have had virus tests aboard the ship, amidst a report by the Japan Times saying that Japan faces a coronavirus test kit shortage.
On Wednesday, the Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said that Japan apparently has had its hands tied, as the number of test kits to diagnose the new coronavirus has been limited, in addition to logistics difficulties.
“We would be overrun,” Mr Kato said during a news conference Monday when commenting on the stock of the kits, the Japan Times reported.
Respite for elderly passengers
Elderly passengers onboard are also given a respite from the quarantine following the Mr Kato’s announcement yesterday to let elderly passengers disembark.
Elderly passengers staying in a cabin without a balcony, as well as those with chronic illnesses, will be allowed to leave the ship if they tested negative for the virus.
People who have tested negative for the virus and are over 80 years old, or have a non-virus medical condition requiring attention, will be allowed to leave the ship and move to a government medical facility as early as Friday if they wish, says Mr Kato.
He did not give a timeline for that process but the health officials have provided further details of the temporary facilities.
The housing facility includes individual rooms and individual bathrooms. There are no clinics at these facilities. Prescription medication will be provided, but medical care will require transport to a hospital or clinic.
The food available will not accommodate dietary preferences but will accommodate certain medical conditions. The meals provided will be Japanese bento-style boxes. No Western meals will be available.
A senior official of the World Health Organization says the “closed environment” on the Diamond Princess cruise ship is “particularly difficult” for elderly people, NHK Japan reported.
And as of last Wednesday, about 80 percent of the 2,666 passengers were age 60 or older, with 215 in their 80s and 11 in their 90s.