Two elderly passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship because they were infected with the coronavirus have become the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel, Japan's Health Ministry said Thursday.Japan now has three deaths linked to the COVID-19 illness. Japan's NHK public television said both were Japanese in their 80s. A Health Ministry official confirmed that they had been previously hospitalized in serious condition and had existing chronic diseases, the AP reports. The 621 coronavirus cases confirmed among the Diamond Princess's original 3,711 people on board are the most anywhere outside China.
The Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama port near Tokyo, started letting passengers who tested negative for the virus off the ship Wednesday, when the government-set 14-day quarantine ended. On Thursday, hundreds more passengers are expected to leave. Test results are still pending for some people on board, and crew members, who were not confined to their rooms, are expected to stay on board. Japan's government has been questioned over its decision to keep people on the ship, which some experts have called a perfect virus incubator. Some medical experts who observed the quarantine process on board also raised caution over lax and "chaotic" protective measures on the ship.
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