The first passengers have begun disembarking from the virus-hit cruise ship moored off Yokohama, Japan after 14 days of quarantine.
An outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has seen at least 542 passengers and crew infected on the Diamond Princess – the biggest cluster outside mainland China.
Passengers have described the difficult quarantine situation on the vessel.
Some nations are evacuating their citizens from the ship as infections continue to rise.
Covid-19 has now claimed 2,004 lives in China, according to the latest Chinese data released on Wednesday.
There have been 74,185 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and around 700 cases in other countries around the globe.
Hong Kong on Wednesday said a 70-year-old man with underlying illnesses became the territory’s second fatality while France, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan have each had one death attributed to the virus.
China on Monday released a detailed study of more than 44,000 confirmed cases indicating that the overwhelming number of deaths occur among the sick and elderly.
The first passengers to step off the Diamond Princess quickly made their way onto waiting coaches or into taxis, reports the BBC’s Laura Bicker who is at the port in Yokohama.
European Photopress Agency
About 500 people who tested negative and who are not showing any symptoms are expected to disembark on Wednesday, with more leaving in coming days.
The ship was carrying 3,700 people in total.
Those who have tested negative but were in cabins with infected people will have to remain on board for additional quarantine.
The passengers on the Diamond Princess come from more than 50 countries, raising concerns the ship could become the source of a fresh wave of global infections, our correspondent says.
The cruise ship was put in quarantine in Japan’s port of Yokohama in early February after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.
Passengers were initially isolated in their cabins and later allowed to sporadically go out on deck.
Despite the quarantine measures, day by day the number of infected people grew rapidly.
The latest figures show at least 542 passengers have tested positive in total and have been taken to nearby hospitals.
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Several countries and territories have separately started evacuating their citizens from the ship or plan to do so in the coming days.
Several experts have raised questions about how effective the quarantine measures were.
Kentaro Iwata, professor at the infectious diseases division of Kobe University, described the situation on board as “completely chaotic”, in a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday.
He visited the ship saying it “was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control” by failing to clearly separate the infected from the healthy.
The expert said he was more afraid of catching the virus on board than he had been working in the field during Ebola and Sars outbreaks.
Japanese officials have defended their approach, saying that the majority of infections likely occurred before the quarantine period.
The US, Canada, Australia and the UK will place those from the ship in another 14 days quarantine when they return home.
South Korea said it will ban entry to any Diamond Princess passengers except for its own citizens.
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