YOKOHAMA - Japan said Thursday it would allow some elderly passengers off a quarantined cruise ship and into government-designated lodging, as the number of new coronavirus cases on the vessel jumped to 218.
Thousands of passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess -- the single largest cluster of infected people outside China -- face several days more of quarantine, with many taking to social media to voice their concerns.
Those working on the ship have been reluctant to speak to reporters for fear of losing their jobs, but two crew members broke their silence in a video broadcast by Indian media Thursday.
"The situation on board is getting worse day by day," 24-year-old ship security officer Sonali Thakkar told AFP.
"This morning they told us that 44 people have been infected and everyone is really scared and wanting to get off as soon as possible," she added.
"All we want is tests to be done and to be separated from those who are positive. We don't want to stay on board."
With passengers mostly confined to their cabins, crew members have to go door-to-door to deliver food and other supplies, and some fear this has reduced the effectiveness of the quarantine.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Thursday there were 44 new cases -- including one crew member -- from an additional 221 tests.
He said also that some elderly passengers would be allowed off the ship if they test negative for the COVID-19 virus.
Those who opt to leave will be moved to government facilities to wait out a quarantine that is set to last until February 19.(FA)