TOKYO: Three Japanese citizens among more than 200 evacuated from China have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Japan’s health minister said Thursday (Jan 30).
The three people arrived in Japan on Wednesday, on the first flight to evacuate Japanese citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a deadly outbreak that has killed 170 people and infected thousands.
Two of the three had not shown any symptoms, the ministry said, according to NHK.
The three evacuees raise the number of cases in Japan so far to 11, including two people who appear to have contracted the virus without travelling to China.
“In addition to the eight cases, among the people who returned from Wuhan yesterday, infection (with the new coronavirus) has been confirmed in one person with symptoms and two other people who have no symptoms,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told parliament.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers that the three returnees would be treated in a special medical facility.
A total of 206 Japanese citizens landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Wednesday morning, with health professionals carrying out checks on board and at the airport, but no mandatory quarantine was planned.
A second chartered flight with Japanese evacuees from Wuhan, which is under virtual lockdown, landed in Japan on Thursday with nine people showing symptoms of fever or coughing, broadcaster NHK report.
At least one more chartered flight is expected in the coming days.
The new cases come after authorities on Wednesday confirmed a second case involving someone who had not recently travelled to China.
The woman was a tour guide who worked on the same bus as a driver who also contracted the virus without travelling to China.
The driver told authorities he had driven two groups of tourists from Wuhan earlier in January and developed symptoms afterwards.
“The eighth case is the second suspected incident of human-to-human transmission in Japan,” Kato said.
“We are in a truly new situation.”
Foreign governments have been flying their citizens out of the area, as the number of deaths jumped and the World Health Organization has voiced “grave concern” about person-to-person spread in three other countries.
The United States flew about 200 Americans out of Wuhan. They were being screened on arrival in California. France, Britain and Canada also have organised evacuations.
More than 50 million people have been locked down in and around Wuhan, the central industrial city where the outbreak first began, in a bid by authorities to stop an infection that has since spread to other cities in China and to other countries.
While some experts believe the new strain, known as “2019-nCoV”, is not as deadly as SARS, alarm has grown over its rapid spread and many unknown attributes, such as how lethal it is.
The effects of the virus are already weighing heavily on China’s economy, the world’s second-biggest, with companies cutting corporate travel and tourists cancelling trips.
Various airlines are cutting flights, from British Airways and Lufthansa to Air Canada and American Airlines.
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