New Delhi: A third Indian crew member was tested positive on Friday for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 in the quarantined cruise ship 'Diamond Princess' off Japan's coast.
According to NDTV, the Indian embassy in Tokyo stated that all three patients were stable, while confirming the third case.
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined off Japan since early February after it emerged a former passenger who got off the boat in Hong Kong had tested positive for the virus.
There were more than 3,700 people on the ship when it arrived off the Japanese coast last week, but those diagnosed with the virus had been taken off the boat, along with some people suffering other health conditions requiring medical attention. Among those on the ship, 138 are Indians, including 132 crew members and six passengers.
Meanwhile, the first passengers began leaving a quarantined cruise ship off Japan's coast on Friday to finish their isolation in government-designated lodging after testing negative for the new coronavirus.
Japan's government has given passengers aged 80 or older in poor health or confined to windowless inner cabins on the Diamond Princess the chance to move from the ship to accommodation on land.
But only those who test negative for the virus that has so far infected almost 220 people on board the ship have the option to move.
The first of them departed the massive cruise ship on Friday afternoon, travelling in buses with blacked out windows.
"Those who test positive will be transferred to the hospital. Those who test negative will -- at the request of the individual -- disembark and be transferred to accommodation provided by the government," a senior health ministry official said in a statement in English read out by the ship's captain in a public broadcast.
"We are aware that many people are worried and concerned about the situation. However, to improve the situation as much as possible, the government is making its best efforts," the statement said.
He said officials were asking people in the area "to report suspicious cases of pneumonia so that we can immediately conduct tests".
The quarantine is due to end on February 19 and those on the ship have been mostly confined to their cabins and asked to wear masks and keep their distance from other passengers during brief outings on open deck.
Crew on board have expressed concern that their conditions -- including shared cabins, bathrooms and workspaces -- put them at greater risk of contracting the virus.
On Friday afternoon, the crew distributed iPhones to passengers on board, with the captain saying the handsets had been sent by the Japanese government.
"We are distributing iPhones to all staterooms, loaded with an application... (that) will help you to get medical support. Full instructions will be distributed together with the phones," he said.
(With inputs from AFP via PTI.)