Japan's government is facing criticism that its initial response to the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus was too lax, as other countries have taken stronger steps to prevent a spread within their borders.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government is doing what it can but has been limited by legal constraints and considerations for human rights.

Japan has so far evacuated 565 of its citizens on charter flights out of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak. All have been asked to take a voluntary test for the coronavirus and remain in government-provided lodgings for up to two weeks, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

But two persons initially refused to be tested, something Abe said was "extremely regrettable" but could not be legally enforced. "It's also a matter of human rights and there's only so much we can do," he said in parliament on Thursday.

The two, however, later agreed to be tested.

The coronavirus has continued to spread, killing at least 213 people and infecting more than 9,800 in China as of Friday night, according to its health authorities. There have been 17 confirmed infections in Japan.

The government on Friday moved to take further steps to contain the outbreak, announcing it will prohibit holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, from entering Japan as well as moving forward an ordinance that would allow it to forcefully hospitalize people with symptoms.

"Why did it take so long?" opposition lawmaker Kazunori Yamanoi asked in a lower house committee.

Social media users have raised similar concerns, and even some lawmakers from Abe's Liberal Democratic Party have questioned whether the government is doing enough, pointing to more drastic measures taken by other countries.

Australia plans to quarantine hundreds of evacuees from Wuhan for two weeks on Christmas Island, lying some 1,500 kilometers off the northwestern coast of the mainland. The plan has its own controversy, as the island is known for being used to keep refugees.

The United States has flown some 200 evacuees to a California military base to be evaluated, although they are not technically obligated to stay. South Korea is requiring the nearly 370 citizens it airlifted out of Wuhan to be quarantined at facilities more than 50 km from Seoul.

Meanwhile, experts warn that overreacting to the outbreak could lead down a dark path.

"It's natural to be afraid of things you can't see," said Mitsuo Kaku, a professor of infection control and prevention at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University.

"The history of infectious disease is a history of discrimination," he said, pointing to the stigma long attached to leprosy despite its relatively low risk of spreading.

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