Nearly 50 out of over 600 crew members on an Italian cruise ship docked for repairs in Japan’s Nagasaki have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising concern about the strain on the city’s hospitals if conditions worsen for those infected.
So far, 127 people have been tested, and the infection rate is 38 percent.
The latest tests showed on Thursday that 14 people aboard, all either cooks or those serving food, were infected with the virus, an official in Nagasaki prefecture said. One patient who had been taken to hospital previously was now in serious condition and on a ventilator, he told a live-streamed news conference.
Those showing mild or no symptoms remain on board, and officials said they hoped to complete testing of all 623 crew this week.
The Costa Atlantica infections come after the cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama two months ago, where more than 700 passengers and crew were found to be infected, although this time only crew members were on board.
The Costa Cruises-operated ship was taken into a shipyard in Nagasaki in western Japan in late February by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) after the COVID-19 pandemic had scuttled plans for scheduled repairs in China.
The latest cases have raised concern about the potential impact on Nagasaki residents after revelations some crew had left the restricted area despite assurances from the ship operator that they would stay within the wharf, according to Nagasaki officials. Details on their movements were still being sought, officials said.
Authorities are also concerned about the potential rise in patients who require hospitalisation, as an increase in domestic coronavirus cases strain medical services around the country.