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Japanese coronavirus infections reach 1,000, including cruise ship cases

Japanese coronavirus infections reach 1,000, including cruise ship cases

Japan has struggled to deal with the fallout from a cruise ship that it quarantined off its coast, where more than 700 people tested positive for the virus AFP/Philip FONG

TOKYO: The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Japan reached the 1,000 mark on Wednesday (Mar 4), including passengers and crew members who disembarked from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, officials and media said.

The latest infection was confirmed in a man in his 40s in Yamaguchi, the prefecture's governor, Tsugumasa Muraoka, told a news conference.

Cases in Japan have now hit the 1,000 mark, public broadcaster NHK said. Of those, 706 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, while 12 have died, the health ministry said.

It was the first confirmed case in the western Japan prefecture of Yamaguchi, highlighting the virus' presence throughout the country which is scrambling to stem its spread with all eyes on the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Japanese authorities have faced criticism for their handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where more than 700 people contracted the virus AFP/Kazuhiro NOGI

"Given how the coronavirus was spreading throughout the country, I thought it would only be a matter of time before a case was confirmed in Yamaguchi," Muraoka said. "We will be doing all we can to prevent the spread of the virus."

READ: Japan to cancel ceremony marking deadly quake as COVID-19 spreads: Reports

The Olympics are scheduled to open in less than five months and International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach on Tuesday reiterated his backing for this summer's Games despite the coronavirus threat, urging athletes to prepare "full steam".

Still, there are worries the Games could be postponed or even cancelled. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked schools to close this month, companies are encouraging employees to work from home and sporting events are being cancelled or played in empty arenas.

Japan's Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, on Tuesday said Tokyo's contract with the IOC "could be interpreted as allowing a postponement" until the end of the year, although she reiterated the government remained committed to the Games starting on Jul 24.

READ: Japan at 'crossroads' on COVID-19 outbreak, expert warns

The northern island of Hokkaido, which has a population of about 5 million people, has confirmed more than 70 infections. That is the largest number of cases in Japan, prompting the island to declare a state of emergency.

Olympics host city Tokyo has seen 40 cases, while infections have been confirmed as far south as Okinawa.

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Source: Reuters/aa


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