Two passengers from virus-hit cruise ship die
Two elderly former passengers from the coronavirus-stricken cruise vessel Diamond Princess have died, according to Japanese authorities.
The man and woman, both Japanese and in their 80s, were taken off the cruise ship last week and died in hospital, becoming the first fatalities among the more than 600 passengers and crew who have tested positive for the virus.
The man had a pre-existing condition of bronchial asthma and a history of angina treatment, the health ministry said in a statement, but the woman had no known pre-existing conditions. The direct cause of her death was pneumonia.
The huge vessel moored in Yokohama near Tokyo is the single biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 621 positive cases confirmed among the passengers and crew.
Vessel continues to be evacuated, slowly
On Wednesday, 443 passengers disembarked after testing negative for the Covid-19 virus and not showing symptoms during a 14-day quarantine period. The removal of all passengers was expected to take at least three days.
More passengers left the ship on Thursday, packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports to head home.
The Diamond Princess was quarantined on 5 February when a passenger who left in Hong Kong was found to be infected with the virus.
Passengers were confined to cabins except for brief trips on deck wearing masks and gloves, when they were told to keep their distance from others.
A specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University released a video slamming the "completely chaotic" quarantine procedures onboard.
Sharp drop in new infections in China
Meanwhile China, where the outbreak began, has seen a sharp drop in the number of new infections.
There were 394 new confirmed cases and 114 deaths reported on Wednesday, down from 1,749 new cases on Tuesday, the National Health Commission said.
Overall, there have now been 2,118 deaths and more than 75,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China. About 16,000 patients have recovered.
The number of coronavirus infections in the South Korean city of Daegu leaped to 39 cases on Thursday, with the mayor advising residents to stay indoors as the country's total sharply increased for the second successive day.