Coronavirus outbreak: At least 65 new cases on cruise ship off Japan, deaths pass 900 after deadliest day

Passenger tests aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have confirmed at least 65 more cases of coronavirus, with four Australians among them.

The figure, announced to passengers after a statement by the cruise operator put new infections at 66, takes the tally on board to 135, showing a rapid rise in the outbreak on the ship docked in the port of Yokohama.

Among the new cases are 45 Japanese, 11 Americans and four Australians, the ship's operator, Princess Cruises, said in the earlier statement.

"This is not news that anyone of us wanted to receive," the captain told passengers in a broadcast.

"However we have been also advised since we are in the early quarantine period of 14 days, it was not unexpected."

The captain's remarks formed part of an audio recording about the 66 new cases posted on Twitter by Yardley Wong, a passenger documenting the experience on the ship, using the hashtag #anxiety.

In a subsequent announcement, however, the captain told passengers he had been advised to correct the figure of new infections to 65 from 66.

Japan's health ministry confirmed the 65 cases.

The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on February 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.

About 3700 people including 223 Australians are aboard the ship, which usually has a crew of 1100 and a passenger capacity of 2670. Of 10 people initially diagnosed, two are Australian.

Passengers have been allowed on decks in shifts to get fresh air and encouraged to regularly take their temperature.

"Lots of the passengers now are getting a bit of cabin fever," British passenger David Able said in a video posted on Facebook. "Depression is starting to set in."

Another said he hoped assurances about the effectiveness of quarantine and ventilation would prove true.

"I will get nervous if we pass 200," said the 43-year-old Hong Kong resident quarantined on the boat with his wife, child and several of his family."

Coronavirus has killed 908 people, chiefly in mainland China, and infected more than 40,000. There were 97 deaths over the last 24 hours - making it the deadliest day yet.

Coronavirus in UK

A staff member at a British doctors' practice in the southern English city of Brighton has tested positive for coronavirus, the BBC reports. The County Oak Medical Centre has been temporarily closed down, the BBC said.

Last week, health officials said a case of coronavirus had been identified in Brighton and they were working to prevent any further spread.

A message left at the medical centre's phone says: "Unfortunately, the building has had to close due to an urgent operational health and safety reason."

A British man, who has not been identified, tested positive for coronavirus in Brighton on February 6 after travelling to Singapore.

He has since been taken to St Thomas's Hospital in London.

He stayed in a ski chalet in the French ski resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie where five British citizens and a child have been diagnosed with the virus.

Britain says its number of confirmed coronavirus cases has doubled to eight as the government declares the virus a serious and imminent threat, giving it additional powers to isolate those suspected of infection.

Health minister Matt Hancock declared the virus "a serious and imminent threat to public health", a step that gives the government more powers to isolate people.

"We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public," a health ministry spokesman said.

Arrowe Park Hospital, near Liverpool in northern England, and Kents Hill Park, in Milton Keynes, have been designated as isolation facilities.

Reuters

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