Australia Scrambles To Confirm Coronavirus Cases, As 40 More On Cruise Ship Test Positive
The government is working to determine how many Australians have tested positive for coronavirus after forty new cases were confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan on Wednesday.
The ship, which is docked in the port of Yokohama, has 229 Australians and more than 3,000 passengers and crew aboard.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the government is urgently requesting information about whether any more Australians have been infected.
She said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is contacting all Australian passengers by email and is advising tourists "do not travel" to China.
It has been reported that 174 people, including 11 Australians aboard the ship had contracted the virus.
The Australian Embassy in Japan said it was investigating a potential 12th Australian case on Tuesday night.
The grandfather of a 21-year-old woman from Melbourne said he she had tested positive for the virus.
He said the woman and her family have been taken off the ship and driven to a hospital two hours away.
"My granddaughter Bianca who is 21 years old tested positive and now she's in isolation in the hospital and my three other family members are all in isolation wards over there," he told 3AW radio on Wednesday.
He also claimed Australians aboard the ship haven't heard from the government since it became a floating quarantine zone on February 3.
"These people are in limbo and no one cares about them," he said.
Payne said the government had already evacuated 538 Australians and permanent residents from China but there would be no further evacuation flights at this stage.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters the situation on the ship is "extremely stressful".
"We've been told anxiety could trigger pre-existing medical conditions."
Along with 39 passengers, an infected quarantine official who is now in hospital tested positive for the virus.
He'd been wearing a mask and gloves, and was collecting and processing questionnaires from passengers, according to ABC.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the government was considering whether to test all passengers before allowing them to disembark.
Fifteen cases of coronavirus have been confirmed inside Australia, Payne said.
Of those 15, five people have recovered from coronavirus and 10 are currently in a stable condition.
The World Health Organisation said more than 44,000 people have been infected with coronavirus worldwide.
The figures come as the death toll in China was confirmed to have climbed to 1,112 on Wednesday.
Hunt said there have been no changes in place for the tens of thousands of Chinese students stranded in the country and unable to start classes in Australia.
"The first priority is to protect Australians at home. The second is to protect Australians abroad."
More to come.