Two elderly passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan have died of the coronavirus.
The deceased passengers were a man and a woman in their 80s.
Professor Kentaro Iwata, an infection control specialist at Kobe University Hospital, criticized Japan's handling of the virus outbreak on the cruise ship: (SOUNDBITE) (English) INFECTION CONTROL SPECIALIST AT KOBE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, PROFESSOR KENTARO IWATA, SAYING: (ON HIS VISIT TO CORONAVIRUS-STRICKEN CRUISE SHIP DIAMOND PRINCESS): "It turned out that the cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control.
There was no distinction between the green zone, which is free of infection and the red zone which is potentially contaminated with the virus...There was no single professional infection control person inside the ship and there was nobody in charge of infection prevention as a professional.
The bureaucrats were in charge of everything." Diamond Princess, which was carrying nearly 4,000 people, has been quarantined in Yokohama since February 3.
But passengers were not confined to their rooms until February 5.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato defended Tokyo's efforts in a report by NHK, saying, quote, "we have to the extent possible taken appropriate steps to prevent serious cases." Yet even as the first passengers disembarked on Wednesday (February 19), Japanese authorities announced 79 new cases were discovered on board.
The rapid spread of the virus on this ship makes it the largest cluster of infections outside mainland China.
A second group of about 600 Japanese and foreign passengers are set to disembark on Thursday (February 20) after spending two weeks quarantined onboard.
Countries like Australia and the United States have begun evacuating their citizens, with plans to quarantine them again upon return.