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Another 41 on Japan cruise have new coronavirus: minister

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Tokyo (AFP)

Another 41 people on board a cruise ship off Japan's coast have tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus, Japan's health minister said on Friday.

The new cases raise the number of confirmed infections on board the ship to at least 61, said Katsunobu Kato.

Japanese authorities have so far tested 273 people on board the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, was diagnosed with the virus.

"The results of the remaining 171 tests came out and 41 tested positive," Kato told reporters.

"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 were more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship when it arrived off Japan's coast on Monday evening. It docked in Yokohama on Thursday to resupply for a quarantine that could last until February 19.

Twenty people who were earlier diagnosed with the virus have already been removed from the vessel and taken to hospitals.

Testing was initially carried out on those who displayed symptoms or had come into contact with the former passenger diagnosed with the virus.

But Kato suggested additional testing would now take place.

Authorities will "test those who are susceptible to illness, including elderly people and those with other ailments, as well as those who had close contact with the people newly diagnosed with the virus," he said.

There were no immediate details on how many people would meet those criteria or when the testing might take place.

Japan has already reported at least 25 cases of coronavirus aside from the infections on board the ship, and evacuated hundreds of citizens from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus emerged.

A fourth evacuation flight carrying both Japanese citizens and non-Japanese spouses and those with other ties to the country arrived on Friday morning.

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