OKINAWA: The city of Naha in Okinawa Prefecture, where a cruise ship now quarantined in Yokohama port, raised alarm bells after the vessel had earlier made a stopover there on Saturday.
Health officials put the city in Japan's southern-most island on high alert after Naha Municipal Government spokesman Tadashi Nakasone told The Japan Times that 13 passengers had left the ship without returning after it docked on the island's port and had already left Okinawa Prefecture.
He added that 2,600 of the 3,711 passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess had also temporarily gone sightseeing ashore in the city, raising fears of having spread the deadly new coronavirus on the island inhabitants.
Such a scenario arose a few days ago after a bus driver in Japan had contracted the virus after ferrying passengers who were tourists from China, even though the driver he himself had never recently visited Wuhan the epicentre of the outbreak.
"Our staff members are verifying whether any passengers who left the Diamond Princess had spread the virus while it was docked in the city.
"Thus far, there have been no health issues have been detected or reported when the cruise ship left Naha.
"All passengers were screened for the coronavirus, and that none of those who disembarked the ship or left it temporarily had a fever or other suspicious symptoms before its departure to Yokohama on Saturday," Nakasone said of the vessel that had arrived in Naha at 1.30pm that day and departed for Yokohama about 9.5 hours later.
His comments came hours after Japanese authorities detected ten out of 31 tested on board the vessel had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The results fuelled uneasiness among officials who feared the number of victims could go much higher given the rapid manner the contagious disease can spread, after an incubation period of about two weeks.
The ten, who had symptoms of fever and coughing, sought treatment at four hospitals at Kanagawa Perfecture with Health Minister Katsunobu Kato announcing that the remaining crew and passengers were confined to the ship for at least a fortnight.
Ship operator Princess Cruises had revealed that the ten victims, aged 50 to 80 years, were three Japanese passengers, two Australians, three from Hong Kong, one from the United States and one Filipino crew.
Of the 3,711 on board, 2,666 were passengers, with half of them Japanese, and the remaining 1,045 were crew members from 56 countries.
The Diamond Princess became a subject of medical scrutiny after it was discovered that an 80-year-old man who had disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan 25, after earlier boarding the vessel in Yokohama, had been infected with the virus.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said they were going to adopt carefully thought-out measures to prevent the virus from spreading further in the land of the rising sun.
He reiterated that the health of the cruise liner's passengers and crew were of their highest priority.