TOKTO, February 13. /TASS/. A total of 44 passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan were diagnosed with novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall number of COVID-19 cases onboard to 219, the country’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Katsunobu Kato said on Thursday.
The figure includes one quarantine service employee who worked onboard the ship and was reported to have contracted the disease on Wednesday.
The minister said that among those 44 passengers are "29 citizens of Japan and 15 foreigners," but did not specify their citizenship.
According to the Kyodo news agency, the country’s authorities have made the decision to evacuate all elderly passengers from the ship.
"Lengthy stay of such passengers on board may cause their chronic conditions to exacerbate," Kato said.
All people aged 80 or older, who are willing to leave the ship, will have a chance to do so before the quarantine period expires on February 19. Evacuation is expected to begin on Friday.
Some 3,700 people from 50 countries, including Russia, were on board the cruise ship when it left Yokohama on January 20 and returned on February 3. Among them was a coronavirus-infected Chinese citizen who left the ship on January 25 in Hong Kong. In accordance with the decision made by the Japanese authorities, the ship was anchored near Yokohama and quarantined for two weeks, until February 19. All people who were infected with the virus have been evacuated from the ship and hospitalized in Kanagawa prefecture.
The Chinese authorities registered an outbreak of the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV in the city of Wuhan. Cases of new coronavirus were confirmed in 24 other countries and territories, including in Russia. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. According to latest reports, over 42,700 cases of new coronavirus were confirmed in China, the death toll surpassed 1,000, and over 4,000 people recovered from the virus.