A British honeymooner is among 41 people aboard a cruise liner who learned on Friday they have contracted the new coronavirus, as some 3700 passengers and crew remained quarantined on board the stricken vessel.
Alan Steele, 58, and his wife, Wendy, were married last month. The couple, from Wolverhampton in Britain, had been celebrating with a honeymoon cruise on the Diamond Princess.
"I have been infected and am being transferred to hospital," Alan said via Facebook messenger. "Must say I am not showing any symptoms at the moment."
Wendy, a nurse, is due to celebrate her 52nd birthday on February 11, and her husband was due to start a new job on February 10.
"I have demanded that they test me," she said by messenger. "I WILL NOT be separated from Alan."
The latest tests bring to 61 the number of people on board the ship who have been diagnosed with the virus, out of 273 who have been tested, Japan's health minister said on Friday. All who tested positive have been or will be taken to local hospitals for treatment.
They include 28 from Japan, 11 from the United States, seven from Australia, seven from Canada, three from Hong Kong, one each from Argentina, Britain, New Zealand and Taiwan, and one Filipino crew member. One is in serious condition, Japanese media reported.
Of the latest 41 to be diagnosed, 21 are aged in their 70s and six are in their 80s, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported, citing the health ministry.
The tests were carried out on passengers and crew deemed at highest risk of having caught the virus after an initial health screening, either because they showed symptoms or because they had mixed with a passenger from Hong Kong who is believed to have carried the virus onto the ship before disembarking.
Ironically, though, Steele said he appeared to have been selected for testing in error, as a doctor later apologised for having swabbed his throat and was uncertain why the newlywed had been chosen.
"I get the impression they are very confused," he said.
All remaining passengers have been issued with thermometers to check their temperatures. Wendy Steele had earlier said many people on board have slight coughs, but only because of the dry air circulating through the air-conditioning system.
On Thursday, Japan's Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the quarantine would not "in principle" be extended. He stressed there was a limit to how many tests could be processed each day.
Speaking about those still on board, Kato said Japan would "give the highest priority to ensuring their health, and in order to prevent the spread of infection, we will implement measures thoroughly."
Passengers were initially confined to their cabins when the quarantine was imposed on Tuesday, but were allowed to spend some time on deck on Thursday provided they wore masks, kept at least three feet apart and avoided using elevators. They have been given rubber gloves to wear outside their cabins.
Japan's tourism industry has been badly hurt by the epidemic, and fears are mounting that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics could be disrupted. As well as the 61 cases on the cruise ship, 25 people have tested positive for the virus in Japan.
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Kato said the number of cases on the cruise ship would not be counted among Japan's tally as recorded by the World Health Organisation, and would instead be counted as "others".
But he denied Japan had made a request to the WHO to separate the numbers so it avoided looking like a risky destination.
A second ship, the World Dream, is also being quarantined off Hong Kong pending test results and health checks for the 3800 people on board, after three passengers who sailed between January 19 and 24 tested positive for the virus.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday foreigners would not be allowed to get off a third cruise ship, the Westerdam, which left Hong Kong on Saturday, unless there were special circumstances. The country's transport minister on Friday said similar measures would be implemented for other cruise ships if there were fears of infection aboard.