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Moves underway to rescue two Irish passengers on coronavirus-hit cruise ship

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Fears: Workers and army officers wearing protective suits walk away from the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama,  Japan, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Fears: Workers and army officers wearing protective suits walk away from the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Fears: Workers and army officers wearing protective suits walk away from the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Two quarantined Irish passengers on board the coronavirus-stricken cruise liner the Diamond Princess may be rescued as part of an international airlift.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is exploring the potential for the Irish couple to be included in a rescue flight organised by other countries for their citizens.

A Department spokesman said it is "examining its options."

However, even if it arranged the international airlift and the Irish couple accept the transport they are likely to have to endure another two weeks isolation in another country before returning to Ireland.

As of yesterday they were not counted among the passengers with the virus.

Another 99 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on board the Diamond Princess, with hundreds of passengers unclear of when they will leave.

The dozens of new cases bring the total on board the ship to 454 just two days before the quarantine is due to end.

The latest cases were revealed today after another 504 tests, with 70 of the 99 new patients not showing any symptoms of the virus.

The remaining hundreds of passengers are expecting to leave the ship when the two-week lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Princess Cruises say they are being led by Japanese authorities and are waiting for foreign governments and embassies to say how they will move to transfer citizens.

But the arrangements are still highly uncertain, meaning that passengers could have to stay on board beyond the end of the quarantine.

The US has already evacuated more than 300 of its citizens with Australia, Canada and others also lining up rescue flights.

Yesterday, 40 American passengers who were diagnosed with the virus were transferred to hospitals in Japan.

Japanese public health experts advising the government defended the decision to isolate passengers and crew on the ship, even as the number of cases increased again .

Shigeru Omi, the chief director of the Japan Community Health Care Organisation said : "Many people are testing positive on the ship, but that is because we are testing everyone on board, regardless of their medical condition.

"And 70pc of those testing positive are not showing any symptoms at all."

Online Editors