A taxi driver in Tokyo has tested positive for the coronavirus, NHK public TV reported, marking a further spread of the disease in Japan even as authorities said some passengers aboard a ship quarantined off its coast would finally be allowed to disembark.
The broadcaster, quoting sources, said the health ministry was trying to trace the route of the contagion, adding that the driver said he had carried passengers who appeared to be Chinese.
No further details were immediately available, including word on the condition of the man, who NHK said was in his 70s. The case is likely to raise further concerns about the spread of the flu-like virus given how many people a city taxi driver has likely been in contact with.
The news came after Japan said it would allow some elderly passengers on the quarantined cruise liner who test negative for the new coronavirus to disembark ahead of schedule and another 44 new cases were confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said elderly passengers who have preexisting conditions or are in windowless rooms would be allowed to leave starting from Feb. 14, rather than the originally targeted date of Feb. 19, and complete their quarantine ashore.
“We will make every effort to ensure the safety and peace of mind of the people,” Kato told a televised news conference, without confirming the number of passengers who may leave ahead of schedule.
With the number of those infected on the cruise ship now up to 218 plus one quarantine officer, concerns have been raised about conditions on the ship, where about 3,500 people remain on board.