Virus Hits Two Australians on Cruise Ship

By AAP

Two Australians on a cruise ship off Japan have contracted coronavirus after being exposed to the deadly virus by a previous passenger.

The pair were among 10 people including three each from Japan and Hong Kong, one from the US and one Filipino crew member who tested positive for coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess.

Japan has quarantined the vessel carrying 223 Australians among 2666 guests and 1045 crew at Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters specimens from more than 200 people have been collected.

“From around 7.30 am (0930 AEDT) Tuesday, we had (the 10 who tested positive) get off the vessel and with co-operation with the coastguard we are sending them to medical organisations,” he said.

The group was taken ashore by the Japanese Coast Guard and on to local hospitals, while the remaining passengers and crew have been quarantined on the ship in Yokohama Harbour.

“They will be provided medical assistance and, I’m advised, will be given passage to an appropriate medical facility in Japan, and we thank the Japanese government for that,” federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told parliament on Wednesday.

Diamond Princess was due to depart Yokohama on an eight-day round trip but the vessel will remain in quarantine for two weeks while Japanese authorities attempt to contain further spread of the virus.

The outbreak has been traced to an elderly man from Hong Kong.

The 80-year-old reportedly sailed on one segment of the cruise itinerary and disembarked on January 25.

He visited mainland China for a few hours on January 10, officials said in a statement.

Six days after leaving the ship he tested positive for coronavirus, on February 1.

The infected patient had not been to healthcare facilities or seafood markets, nor had he been exposed to wild animals during his incubation period – meaning he likely contracted the virus from another human.

Several cruise lines have announced measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises have barred guests from ships if they have travelled from or through mainland China in the 14 days prior to the departure date of the cruise.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government is inquiring into the health of other Australians on the ship.

There are 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.

More than 20 countries have confirmed cases of the virus, which has killed nearly 500 people and infected more than 24,000 in mainland China.

The outbreak has prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency, several governments to institute travel restrictions and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.