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Tokyo, February 16, 2020
Another 70 people aboard the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan's Yokohama have been tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total to 355 cases, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato confirmed on Sunday.
The health ministry said that the 70 new cases came out of 289 people tested, bringing the total number of those who have undergone tests to 1,219, Japan Times reported.
The cruise ship arrived in Japan earlier this month with more than 3,700 passengers and crew members from more than 50 countries and regions.
With global attention increasingly focused on the situation, the US Embassy sent a letter on Saturday to Americans aboard saying that a chartered aircraft, set to arrive in Japan on Sunday, would repatriate those who wished to leave the ship.
The US aircraft is set to depart from Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Monday, according to Japanese officials
Japan will also cooperate with other countries that make similar arrangements to evacuate their citizens on the ship, Japanese government officials said.
More than a week has passed since the cruise ship was put under a two-week quarantine at Yokohama port after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected with COVID-19, the pneumonia-causing coronavirus.
Japan's health ministry had initially planned to keep all of the passengers and crew confined on the vessel until Wednesday, when the quarantine is scheduled to end.
But the ministry decided last Thursday to let passengers 80 and older, as well as their traveling companions, leave before the end of the quarantine after they were screened for infection.
Those with pre-existing conditions or who were staying in cabins without windows were prioritized for disembarkation.