Japan plans to ban foreign nationals who have visited China's Zhejiang Province from entering the country as an additional step to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus, a government source said Tuesday.
The measure, if adopted, may deal a blow to Japanese businesses investing in the province, just south of Shanghai. Chinese data show a total of 1,117 people have been infected with the virus in the province, compared with 31,728 in Hubei Province at the center of the outbreak.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a meeting with his all Cabinet ministers on Wednesday morning to discuss ways to better respond to the deadly pneumonia-causing virus.
Beginning Feb. 1, the Abe government has barred the entry of foreigners who stayed in the province within two weeks prior to their arrival in Japan even if they do not show symptoms.
The government has also prohibited holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei from entering the country in principle.
Earlier Tuesday, the health ministry said two more Japanese men were confirmed to have been infected with the virus after returning home from China's Wuhan, the center of the virus outbreak, on government-chartered planes in late January.
The confirmation brought to a total of 163 the number of people who have tested positive for the deadly pneumonia-causing virus in Japan, including 135 on a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.
The two men, one in his 40s and the other in his 50s, had tested negative in initial testing, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
After testing negative, the man in his 40s remained at his home in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, from Feb. 1 but had a fever of 39.5 C on Saturday, the ministry said.
The man was hospitalized at a medical institution in the prefecture after he was found to have developed pneumonia on Monday.
While staying at a hotel in Chiba Prefecture, the second man, a resident of Wuhan, was hospitalized at a medical institution in the prefecture after having a fever of 38.5 C on Friday. He tested positive on Monday.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, a health ministry official said the government is considering allowing the elderly and those with chronic illnesses to disembark from the cruise ship because passengers have apparently been under stress during their prolonged isolation there.
The elderly and passengers with chronic illnesses are expected to leave the ship, the Diamond Princess, as early as Wednesday, according to a government source.
About 3,600 passengers and crew members were scheduled to be isolated aboard the ship through Feb. 19 to prevent the spread of the virus in Japan.
The ship has been kept in quarantine since a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected with the virus.
Of an additional 65 people on the ship who had tested positive for the virus, 43 are Japanese, the ministry said.
U.S. company Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., operator of the ship, said 66 people have tested positive, but the ministry said there could be some overlapping in the operator's figure.
The ship departed Yokohama near Tokyo on Jan. 20 and returned Feb. 3 after visiting Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. Those confirmed as infected upon arrival have been hospitalized in Japan.
On Tuesday, health authorities conducted new tests at a hotel in Chiba Prefecture to give the all-clear to some 170 Japanese people who returned on a government-chartered plane from Wuhan on Jan. 29 in the first evacuation flight for Japanese nationals from the city.
Results of the quarantine tests will be made available as early as Wednesday afternoon.
Once their test results are clear, they will be allowed to go home.
Japan has brought back a total of 763 Japanese and their non-Japanese family members on four chartered planes since late last month.