Passengers on board a quarantined cruise liner in Japan were dealt another blow yesterday when 60 more people tested positive for coronavirus - almost doubling the total number of the ship's cases to 130.
The Diamond Princess ship, which is docked in Yokohama, has strictly confined thousands of passengers to their cabins since last Wednesday.
They face a total lockdown until February 19 and are only allowed to exercise on deck for 1.5 hours a day in small groups.
The Japanese health authorities began testing on board the ship after an elderly holidaymaker from Hong Kong, who disembarked in late January, was found to be carrying the deadly coronavirus, which has killed 910 people and infected more than 40,000 since it emerged from China in mid-December.
Following the high spike in cases, the Japanese government said it was planning to test dozens more elderly people on board and to investigate whether there were any issues with hygiene control. But some passengers have already called for more health checks, questioning why fewer than 300 people have been tested in full.
"The worrying thing to me is that they have tested relatively few people on the ship," Kent Frasure (42), from Oregon, said. "The symptoms are still minor. They need to be doing more and testing more people."
Mr Frasure's wife, Rebecca, has been diagnosed with the virus and taken to hospital. He is awaiting his own diagnosis after he recorded a temperature above 37.5C and does not know when he will be reunited with his wife.
"They said if you're positive you'll know pretty quickly and if not then you won't know for a while," he said.
"It makes you little jumpy. Every time there is a knock on the door, you don't know what your status is."
Princess Cruise Lines Ltd, which operates the luxury liner, has now offered to fully refund all passengers who were trapped on board because of the outbreak. Fears about the rapid transmission of the disease, which can cause a fever and breathing difficulties, have been heightened by a report that the virus incubation period can last for up to 24 days in some instances. The report, which extracted data from 1,099 cases from 552 hospitals in 31 provinces, also found that the median age of patients was 47, and 42pc were female.
But speaking at a press conference Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organisation, said that the overall pattern of the outbreak had not changed.
He added that the aim was still to contain the virus, which has now spread from China to some 27 countries worldwide, and that global co-operation was required to end the outbreak.
US President Donald Trump said he was confident the outbreak would not continue through spring and summer. "The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus," he said.