Aboard two cruise ships in Japan and Hong Kong are thousands of passengers who are stranded amid reports of coronavirus infections on board. In China, the death toll from the disease climbed to nearly 500.

Japan confirmed that at least 10 people on a cruise ship have been infected with the new coronavirus, which originated in China.

The patients, including nine passengers and one crew member, were from Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, the U.S., and the Philippines.

They were being taken to hospital in Kanagawa prefecture, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference.

About 3,700 passengers and crew members were to remain on the Diamond Princess ship for another 14 days “as a general rule,” he said.

A previous passenger from Hong Kong was confirmed to have the virus on Saturday after disembarking from the ship there, bringing the total number of infections in Japan to 33.

A cruise ship with 1,800 people on board was also being held at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak cruise terminal after officials in China informed the cruise operator that three previous passengers had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The ship arrived in Hong Kong Wednesday morning after Taiwanese officials refused entry.

Authorities said they were carrying out testing and sterilization on board. Three crew members with fever were placed in isolation in a Hong Kong hospital, and more than 20 crew members who reported symptoms were being examined, according to local broadcaster RTHK.

The coronavirus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan, in central China, which reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption – similar to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

SARS, a disease that infected 8,000 people and killed 800 globally between 2002 and 2003, and also began in China, was linked to the consumption of civet cats, another exotic meat.

The coronavirus belongs to the same family of viruses.

(dpa/NAN)

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