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Japanese Health Official Contracts Coronavirus Aboard Diamond Princess

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Quarantine measures on the dock next to Diamond Princess (Yardley Wong / Twitter)

By The Maritime Executive 02-12-2020 09:52:00

A Japanese health official who visited the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama has been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, Japan's health ministry reported Wednesday. 

The official came aboard Diamond Princess on February 3 and February 4 in order to collect passenger questionnaires and take temperatures. Despite his precautionary measures on board - he used a mask and gloves, and he reported disinfecting his hands between each passenger interaction - he came down with a fever on February 9 and has tested positive for the virus. 

In addition, four patients previously diagnosed aboard Diamond Princess are in serious condition, the ministry said. All are men of more than 60 years of age; two of them are now in intensive care and two need help breathing.

About 3,600 people remain quarantined on board the vessel, but not all have been tested for the virus. Japanese officials told Japan Times on Wednesday that only about 500 samples have been taken on board to date, including samples from people tested more than once. 

Due to logistical difficulties and a restriction on the list of approved testing facilities, the capacity for testing has so far been limited, ministry officials said. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Wednesday that his government will allow private labs to conduct tests beginning February 18, raising the available capacity to up to 1,000 tests per day.