FIVE Australians among 61 infected with the coronavirus on a cruise ship ‘prison’ off coast of Japan

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Five Australians are reportedly among 61 people who have tested positive for coronavirus on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan on Friday. 

Japanese authorities have tested 273 people on board the Diamond Princess. 

Two Australian passengers had previously tested positive for the virus bringing the total to seven. 

A former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, sparked the quarantine measures after being confirmed as having coronavirus. 

‘The results of the remaining 171 tests [of passengers]came out and 41 tested positive,’ Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato, said on Friday. 

‘Today they will be sent to hospitals in several prefectures, and we are now preparing for that.’ 

‘In total, out of 273 specimens, 61 tested positive,’ he added. 

There are 3,700 people on board the ship of which 223 are Australian passengers and three are Australian crew. 

The Diamond Princess is currently under a two week quarantine period. 

Of those who have been confirmed to have coronavirus on board the ship on Friday, three patients are aged between 20 and 40 and the remaining 38 are between 50 and 80 years of age. 

Passengers on the ship have been informed they are required to stay in their rooms for the next two weeks. 

Officials have handed out thermometers so those on board can self-monitor and alert authorities if there temperature rises above the normal 37.5 degrees. 

Passengers have been reportedly finding out about the additional cases being diagnosed through the media with one saying the news gave them a sense of ‘dread’. 

A female passenger was seen on Friday holding a Japanese flag from one of the ship’s balconies reading ‘medicine shortage’ in Japanese. 

It is understood the first 20 cases have already been removed from the ship and transported to hospitals in Japan. 

Inside the ship, once bustling common areas are empty and cafe and restaurants shut down. 

Food is being delivered to the guests as they remain confined to their rooms.   

After the first two Australian cases were confirmed aboard the ship on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the government would provide assistance to those on board. 

When asked if Australians would be quarantined when they returned to the country, Mr Dutton said it would be decided on a case by case basis.  

‘We’ll take the advice from the chief medical officer,’ he said.

‘My understanding is if they’ve been in isolation for 14 days, on that boat, and people who have presented with the virus have been removed from that setting, then I think they can come back.

‘I think we’ll have a look at the individual cases, and DFAT has done a great job at looking at the individual cases and the nuance of each family unit and how we can help those people.’ 

Prime minister Scott Morrison said Australians are among the 41 new cases on Friday on board the ship, but couldn’t confirm ABC reports of five cases. 

Meanwhile, another flight is on its way to evacuate Australians from China. 

The Qantas plane took off about 12.30pm AEDT on Friday. It will land in Hong Kong for a brief stop over before flying on to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

The evacuees will be taken to a mining camp near Darwin after the government was told the Christmas Island facility currently housing around 270 evacuees could not properly segregate the next group. 

There have been 28,285 reported cases of the virus across the world, mostly in China, with 565 of them being deadly, according to official government figures. 

The Australian government is preparing plans if the outbreak continues as the quarantine facility on Christmas Island reaches capacity. 

Mr Morrison said defence officials are working to identify mainland sites that could handle any overflow. 

The advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for travel to mainland China is ‘level 4 – do not travel’. 

There have been 15 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Australia: five in Queensland, four each in NSW and Victoria, and two in South Australia. 

Of these cases five have recovered and the remaining are stable. 

 

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