Two Japanese passengers who contracted the Covid-19 virus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan have died.
One passenger died of Covid-19, while the other died of pneumonia, local reports said. Both were in their 80s and had underlying health problems.
They were treated in hospitals after being taken from the Diamond Princess last week.
At least 621 people on the ship tested positive for the virus, the largest cluster outside of China.
The Japanese health minister said that both passengers were sent to medical institutions after showing symptoms.
“I believe they have received the best possible treatment,” said Katsunobu Kato, the Japanese health minister.
The Diamond Princess transported a total of 3,700 people and passengers who tested negative for the virus started leaving the ship on Wednesday after a 14-day quarantine.
Hundreds have now left the cruise. Others will leave the next two days.
Criticism has been voiced about the way Japan handles quarantine on the Diamond Princess.
Kentaro Iwata, professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University and a Japanese health expert, visited the Diamond Princess and said the situation on board was “completely chaotic”.
“The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control,” he said in a widely shared YouTube video that he has since taken offline.
But Kato responded to Professor Iwata’s criticism on Thursday and said the country’s authorities had worked hard to tackle a very complicated situation.
“We have done our best in the given circumstances,” Kato told Japanese lawmakers.
“Not only our officials at the Ministry of Health, but also officials from the self-defense forces and medical officials are working desperately.
“We have infectious disease specialists [on the ship], and we receive feedback from our operation every day, including dividing [the areas within the ship].”
The health minister stressed that the cruise ship was “not an established place, such as a hospital,” and that the authorities continued to “correct” various problems every day.
“We need to investigate and learn from this because we think this is a global problem,” said Kato.
A total of 2,118 deaths and nearly 75,000 confirmed infections have now been registered on mainland China, the country where the corona virus originated.
There are more than 1,000 cases outside of China with the largest cluster at the Diamond Princess in Japan, followed by Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.
Two people died in Hong Kong, while France, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan each attributed one death to the virus.
Iran has confirmed that two people infected with the virus died in the city of Qom – the first reported deaths in the Middle East.