Passengers leave Hong Kong cruise ship after coronavirus quarantine lifted

Passengers began disembarking from the World Dream cruise ship on Sunday after Hong Kong authorities lifted a quarantine, saying all crew members had been cleared in tests for the novel coronavirus.

China allocates $10.26B to fight virus

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Passengers began disembarking from the World Dream cruise ship on Sunday after Hong Kong authorities lifted a quarantine, saying all crew members had been cleared in tests for the novel coronavirus.

The ship and 1,800 passengers had been placed under quarantine since it docked Wednesday after eight mainland Chinese passengers on a voyage last month were diagnosed with the new strain of the virus.

Port officials on Sunday said that tests on all 1,800 crew members were completed ahead of schedule and were negative. Crew members might have been exposed to infected Chinese passengers who had taken a previous cruise in January.

They said some passengers with symptoms tested negative but there was no need to test all of them because they had no contact with the infected Chinese passengers.

There are 26 virus cases in Hong Kong, which has sealed almost all its border checkpoints with mainland China and imposed a quarantine on all arrivals from the mainland in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

China raised the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003, as millions prepare to return to work after an extended Lunar New Year break. The total of 37,198 confirmed cases vastly exceeds the 8,098 sickened by SARS.

Authorities have told businesses to tack up to 10 extra days onto holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January as the rising numbers of dead and infected cast a pall over the country.

Many of China's usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks as Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and shut schools.

The sight of an economy regarded as a workshop to the world laid so low has taken a toll on international financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe havens like gold, bonds and the Japanese yen.

Passengers from the cruise ship World Dream docked at Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong wave as they leave the ship after being quarantined for the coronavirus. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

Even on Monday local time, a large number of workplaces and schools will remain closed and many white-collar employees will work from home.

Among the latest deaths, 81 were in Hubei province, where the virus has infected most people by far. New deaths in Wuhan, Hubei's capital, saw a rare decline on Saturday, and the number of new cases reported within China's Hubei province has stabilized in recent days, according to Michael Ryan, director of the World Health Organization Health Emergencies Program.

The virus has spread to 27 countries and regions, infecting more than 330 people. Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China — in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both victims were Chinese nationals.

Canada has airlifted more than 200 Canadians from Wuhan and they are quarantined at an air force base in Trenton, Ont.  More are expected to arrive from Hubei next week to begin the 14-day quarantine. 

Of the 213 returning Canadians and their family members, none have exhibited symptoms of the virus, the Canadian government said on Saturday, a day after their arrival.

More than 360 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China. 

There have been seven cases confirmed in Canada — three in Ontario and four in British Columbia, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

More cases aboard 2nd ship

Six more cases were reported in Japan among 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined since last Tuesday in Yokohama, after many people on board, including seven Canadians, tested positive for the virus. That quarantine is scheduled to end Feb. 19. As of Sunday, 69 cases had been identified.

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Rosemarie Yerex of Port Dover, Ont., is aboard a cruise ship where the coronavirus has been found in Yokohama, Japan.

A third cruise ship, Holland America's Westerdam, is trying to find a port where it can dock, after leaving Hong Kong on Feb. 1, for a trip that was to end in Okinawa, Japan.

Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the U.S. territory of Guam have all prohibited the ship from docking, due to the fact that it picked up passengers in Hong Kong.

Holland America says the ship, now in the East China Sea, is not in quarantine and there are no known cases of coronavirus on board.

Vietnam reported its 14th case. The country's health ministry said she is a 55-year-old woman in Vinh Phuc province, northwest of Hanoi, where six earlier patients were found to be infected. Malaysia reported its 17th case.

A fourth person in England has tested positive for the virus, having contracted the illness from a previously confirmed British patient in France, England's Chief Medical Officer said on Sunday.

China's finance ministry said on Sunday all levels of government had allocated a total of 71.85 billion yuan ($10.26 billion US) as of Saturday afternoon to fight coronavirus.

The ministry will deploy the funds to ensure that members of public can afford diagnosis and treatment, it said in a statement on its website. The funds will also be used to ensure that efforts of every region to fight the virus are not hampered by financial constraints, it added.


With files from Reuters