Two more Britons have tested positive for coronavirus on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan as the number of cases on board jumped to 174.
The two Britons were among 39 new cases confirmed today as passengers on the Diamond Princess face a second week in quarantine in Yokohama.
It takes the number of British cases on board to three, after honeymooner Alan Steele was hauled off the vessel and taken to hospital on the mainland on Friday.
Mr Steele, who was travelling with his new wife Wendy, said today he was on the brink of being declared clear of the virus.
‘Just received great news. My test showed negative to virus and have now been swabbed for second test, if that comes back negative I get released,’ he said.
The new virus patients also include seven Americans, four Australians and two Canadians, Japanese media said, as well as the ship’s first teenage patient.
A health worker in a hazmat suit pours disinfectant over part of the Diamond Princess today, in a picture taken by a British passenger who is still quarantined on board
British cruise ship passenger Alan Steele, pictured with his wife Wendy Marshall Steele, has tested negative for coronavirus after several days in a Japanese hospital
If the Diamond Princess were a country, it would now have largest number of cases outside mainland China.
Japan initially screened all 3,711 passengers and crew last week after an 80-year-old passenger who left the ship in January was confirmed to have the virus.
Nearly 300 people were selected for further tests because they showed symptoms or had contact with known patients, resulting in 61 initial positive tests.
Since then, the tests have expanded to those who had contact with the infected passengers, producing a spiralling number of confirmed cases.
In recent days, testing has expanded to 492 people, mostly those showing symptoms or who have had close contact with a confirmed positive case.
Of those 492 people, 174 have tested positive so far.
‘Currently we have the capacity to conduct up to 300 tests per day, but we are working… so that by the last day of the incubation period, February 18, we will be able to test up to 1,000,’ government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said.
The ship is due to remain in quarantine until February 19, and authorities do not expect the new cases to change that timeline.
However, newly confirmed patients could face a further two weeks in quarantine starting from when they tested positive.
Mr Steele was taken to hospital on Friday and separated from his wife Wendy Marshall Steele, whom he married last month.
Officials in protective suits, masks and helmets work by the side of a van which is parked at Yokohama port, where the Diamond Princess is under quarantine
Japanese vehicles are parked next to a walkway which has been put up to allow supplies to be brought on board the Diamond Princess
Boxes of supplies marked for delivery to the Diamond Princess are seen on the shore today
On board the ship, the captain told passengers the situation was changing all the time.
‘We are following the latest and best public health guidelines from the authorities,’ he said in a broadcast that passengers relayed on social media.
British passenger David Abel today shared pictures of health workers in hazmat suits disinfecting parts of the ship.
‘You sit out on the balcony and you hear people coughing all the way along,’ his wife Sally Abel said in a Facebook video.
‘It is nothing like a holiday, but it is complete relaxation,’ she added.
The Diamond Princess has mostly been anchored in Yokohama Bay where workers in protective suits have delivered supplies on smaller boats.
The supplies have included food and medication as well as wipes and protective face masks.
The ship has also returned to the open sea periodically to collect seawater which can be turned into shower or drinking water.
All the passengers have been offered full refunds for the cruise and told they will not incur any charges during the quarantine.
People in hazmat suits load supplies from one of three trucks which have driven to the port in Yokohama to help deliver essential goods to the ship
Supplies are lifted from the back of a truck in Yokohama, where passengers are bracing for a second week in quarantine
Aside from the cruise ship, Japan has identified 28 cases – including at least nine from evacuation flights that brought Japanese citizens out of Wuhan.
Some of the passengers evacuated from Wuhan are expected to be released from quarantine soon. possibly by Wednesday evening.
The death toll from the virus in China jumped to 1,114 today after another 97 deaths were reported by the country’s national health commission.
It came after 108 new fatalities were reported on Tuesday, the highest number since the outbreak began.
Two people have died outside mainland China, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong, bringing the global toll to 1,116.
More than 44,600 people have been confirmed as infected by the pathogen across China.
The virus is believed to have emerged in a market selling wild animals in Wuhan last year before spreading across China.