The Japanese government has decided to move passengers who test negative for coronavirus to be take off the Diamond Princess Cruise, at the request of the individual. The decision was taken a day after more infections were diagnosed on the luxury cruise, bringing the total up to 218.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters that the first passengers who want to leave the ship would be taken off later Friday. Details about the same have not yet been revealed.
Those who disembarked will be sent to accommodation provided by the government, said senior health ministry official Gaku Hashimoto, who boarded the ship on Friday to make the announcement.
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined off Japan since early February after it emerged a former passenger who got off the boat in Hong Kong had tested positive for the virus. The quarantine is due to end on February 19. Of the infected persons, 10 who were hospitalised are now in serious condition.
Passengers who are considered to be high risk in general health would be tested and those who test positive will be transferred to hospital.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that they will keep collecting epidemiological information including on the routes of infection.
Passengers onboard are celebrating Valentine's Day in the meantime with the ship's crew providing them with a 'special breakfast' of sauteed mushrooms, sausages and boiled eggs, and a lunch of Avocado shrimp salad and Japanese style rice and vegetables.
Wearing a red dress and a red hair tie, the ship's entertainment manager Natalie posted a video on Twitter to try to keep spirits up.
"I just wanted to check in with everybody and say that we are all hanging in there, doing fine and keeping together as a big family," she said, admitting with a smile: "This hasn't been my regular attire for the last week or so."