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Japan has 44 more coronavirus patients on its quarantine ship with 3,500 people on board

The ship, which is still carrying more than 3,500 passengers and crew members, has 218 people infected with coronavirus out of 713 people tested since the ship returned to the Yokohama Port on Feb. 3.

Japan’s health ministry said Thursday 44 more people on a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo have tested positive for coronavirus that causes the new disease known as COVID-19.

The ship, which is still carrying more than 3,500 passengers and crew members, has 218 people infected with the virus out of 713 people tested since the ship returned to the Yokohama Port on Feb. 3.

In all, Japan has 247 confirmed cases of the new disease that apparently started in Wuhan, a city in central China, in December.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters that five of the patients sent to hospitals earlier have severe symptoms, are on artificial respirators or under intensive care.

Kato also said the government has decided to allow passengers older than 80 to get off the ship if they wish to do so after testing negative for the virus. He said results of tests on about 200 eligible passengers are underway, and those with chronic health problems or in cabins without operable windows will be given priority.

Kato said the measure is to reduce health risks of passengers stuck in rooms under difficult conditions. Those who are released will be asked to stay at a designated facility through the end of the quarantine period.

“We are doing our utmost for the health of crew members and passengers who remain on the ship,” Kato told a news conference.

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