The Diamond Princess cruise ship where there are 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship where there are 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Huge rise in virus cases on cruise ship

Another 41 people on board a cruise ship off Japan's coast have tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus, Japan's health minister said today.

The new cases raise the number of confirmed infections on board the ship to at least 61, said Katsunobu Kato.

Japanese authorities have tested 273 people on board the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, tested positive for the virus.

"The results of the remaining 171 tests came out and 41 tested positive," Kato told reporters.

"Today they will be sent to hospitals in several prefectures, and we are now preparing for that." "In total, out of 273 specimens, 61 tested positive," he added.

There are more than 3700 passengers and crew on the ship, which has been off Japan's coast since Monday evening.

The ABC is reporting that five Australians are among the 41 new cases.

It docked in Yokohama on Thursday to resupply for a quarantine that could last until February 19.

Twenty people who were earlier diagnosed with the virus have already been removed from the vessel and taken to hospitals.





Australians are being warned against travelling to China as coronavirus continues to spread and take more lives.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said people were still travelling from Australia to China in defiance of official advice.

"Those people frankly are putting themselves in a difficult situation," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network on Friday.

"They would find it very hard to get back to Australia in certain circumstances and you can't guarantee their return, particularly if China shuts its borders."

The virus has killed 636 people and infected more than 30,000.

"Putting yourself into that zone makes for a very difficult situation," Mr Dutton said.

Australian diplomats are working with Chinese officials to allow another evacuation flight from Wuhan.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison says people should not assume further flights would be possible, whether from Wuhan or mainland China.

"DFAT (foreign affairs department) is now in the process of registering our intention to undertake a second chartered flight," he told parliament on Thursday.

More Australian evacuees touched down on Christmas Island on Thursday after being flown out of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak. But the government is already making plans about what to do if the outbreak continues and the quarantine facility set up on Christmas Island reaches its 1200-person capacity.

Mr Morrison says defence officials are working to identify mainland sites to take any overflow, with hotels and mines as possible solutions. The latest group to arrive on Christmas Island are 35 Australian citizens and permanent residents who left Wuhan on Wednesday.

They flew out on an Air New Zealand flight that also took 98 New Zealanders and a number of others to Auckland.

The Australian group was then flown by charter plane to Christmas Island, where they have joined 241 evacuees from an earlier Qantas evacuation flight. All face a two-week quarantine process.

None are suspected to have the virus.

There are now 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia: five in Queensland, four each in NSW and Victoria and two in South Australia.