The passengers were removed in city of Yokohama buses (AFP Photo/Kazuhiro NOGI)
The passengers were removed in city of Yokohama buses (AFP Photo/Kazuhiro NOGI)

Passengers leave Japan virus ship as China toll tops 2,000

By: AFP
Wed, Feb. 19, 2020
YOKOHAMA - 19 February 2020: Hundreds of relieved passengers finally disembarked a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan Wednesday after testing negative for the disease that has now claimed more than 2,000 lives in China and spread panic worldwide.

With 542 positive cases, the Diamond Princess is easily the biggest cluster outside China, and Japan has faced mounting criticism for its quarantine arrangements as the passengers disperse into the wider world.

"I'm relieved... I want to take a good rest," said a 77-year-old Japanese passenger, who declined to give his name. He said he would be boarding Japan's famously crowded railway system home.

A fleet of yellow-dotted city buses, plus a dozen or so taxis, whisked away the passengers, many of whom dragged their luggage behind them and waved to former ship-mates on balconies as they disembarked.

Fresh figures from China showed the death toll surging beyond 2,000 with more than 74,000 infected, although the rate of new cases continued to slow.

Hundreds more cases have been reported in two dozen countries, including 15 in South Korea -- a 50-percent rise -- with a cluster of at least 11 around the southern city of Daegu.

Hong Kong also reported its second death from the virus, which has proved extremely infectious.

For the 500 passengers disembarking the Diamond Princess after testing negative, a difficult 14-day quarantine period has come to an end after their dream cruise turned into a nightmare of fear and boredom confined in many cases to small windowless cabins.

"Our last deep gratitude to the crews and captain for such an amazing care... during the epic crisis... we can't wait to see you again soon on board again," tweeted passenger Yardley Wong, who left after 14 days cooped in a small cabin with her six-year-old son.

 
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