BANGKOK (AP) - Japanese officials said Wednesday that 33 crew members on a docked cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus in one day of testing after the first case from the ship was reported.
The Italian-operated Costa Atlantica has been docked in Nagasaki since late January for repairs and maintenance by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry. The ship has 623 crew members but it is empty of passengers during the repair work.
The outbreak surfaced Tuesday when the first crew member, identified only as a foreign national, tested positive for the virus.
None of those infected had serious symptoms and all are isolated in single rooms on the ship, officials said.
Mitsubishi officials said no crew members have left the ship since mid-March. Before then, crew members were allowed to go to shore if they passed temperature checks and had not recently traveled to high-risk countries such as China and Italy.
Nagasaki officials are investigating how the crew members contracted the virus.
The outbreak adds to concerns about hospital capacity in Nagasaki, where only 102 beds are available.
All of Japan is under a coronavirus state of emergency as cases rise. Japan has about 11,500 confirmed infection, with 280 deaths. Those numbers are separate from an earlier outbreak on another cruise ship carrying more than 3,700 passengers and crew, where 712 were infected.
In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:
- INDIA TO USE WRISTBANDS FOR MONITORING: India says it will use wristbands to monitor the movements and body temperature of quarantined patients and help people identify their risk of coronavirus infection. Officials said the wristbands will also help health workers by letting them know if people have contacted infected people or been to high-risk areas. Thousands of wristbands are expected to be deployed, but an exact figure has not been released.
- VIETNAM TO LOOSEN RESTRICTIONS: Vietnam will loosen travel restrictions as it lifts a nationwide shutdown after no new coronavirus cases were reported in the past week. The government said the restrictions will be eased in most cities and provinces, but not the capital, Hanoi, which has nearly half of the country’s 268 infections. Public gatherings of more than 20 people will remain banned along with dining inside restaurants, and nonessential businesses will remain closed.
- SINGAPORE CASES SURGE PAST 10,000: Singapore reported 1,016 new cases on Wednesday, pushing its total to 10,141 and retaining its position as the worst-hit nation in Southeast Asia. It was the third straight day of more than 1,000 new cases, but the death toll remained at 11. The health ministry said the vast majority of the new cases are again linked to foreign workers’ dormitories. The dorms have been locked down and virus testing has been ramped up to curb transmission.
- INDIA TO PROTECT HEALTH WORKERS: India is planning a new law that would make attacks on health care professionals a serious offense with a jail terms of up to seven years. “There will be absolutely no tolerance of attacks on doctors and health care professionals,” federal minister Prakash Javadekar said Wednesday. Under the law, health care workers would also be provided insurance. Several health care workers have been attacked as they tried to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
- SOUTH KOREA TO CREATE $32B FUND: South Korea says it will create a 40 trillion won ($32 billion) fund to protect jobs in key industries as it scrambles to ease the economic shock from the coronavirus. The plan announced by President Moon Jae-in, which needs parliamentary approval, requires a state-run bank to issue bonds to create the fund, which will be used to help companies in industries such as airlines, automotive, shipbuilding and machinery. Officials said last week that South Korea lost nearly 200,000 jobs in March from a year earlier, its largest monthly decline since May 2009.
- EXPERT: CAN STILL TEST POSITIVE WITH ANTIBODIES: South Korea’s top infectious disease expert says patients can still test positive for the coronavirus even after their bodies develop antibodies. The findings, based on a small sample of patients, came as officials explore why some patients relapse after their release from hospitals. Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that officials tested 25 patients who developed antibodies to resist further infections, and that 12 still tested positive for the virus. However, virus samples collected from the 12 cases could not be cultivated in isolation, indicating a loss of infectiousness. Jeong stressed that the findings don’t necessarily mean that a significant proportion of patients would be vulnerable to reinfections even after developing antibodies.
- TAIWAN NAVY SHIP CASES: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she bears responsibility for a virus cluster on a navy ship that infected 27 people. “I want to present my apologies for letting Taiwanese people bear the risk of the epidemic,” she said. Two admirals were removed from their posts pending an investigation into responsibility for the infections, the defense chief said. Taiwan has reported 425 cases and six deaths from the outbreak. The self-governing island has received praise for controlling the outbreak through case-tracing and social distancing despite being excluded from the World Health Organization.
- PAKISTAN DOCTORS URGE MOSQUE CLOSURE: The Pakistan Medical Association is pleading with the country’s clerics and prime minister to reverse a decision to leave mosques open during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, warning it could result in an explosion of coronavirus cases. Large gatherings will increase the number of infections and overwhelm the health care system, said Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the association. The country recorded 533 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, bringing its total to 9,749, including 209 deaths. The government has urged social distancing in mosques but has left it to local clerics to enforce the regulation. Some radical clerics have called for adherents to pack the mosques.
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