Japan confirmed on Sunday that a woman who tested negative and disembarked from the coronavirus-infested cruise ship Diamond Princess was later tested positive, which raises questions about the effectiveness of the quarantine measures.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato also apologized after 23 passengers were allowed to leave without a proper check.
The woman in her sixties returned to her house in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, after she disembarked on Wednesday. However, she had a fever on Friday and tested positive on Saturday, a local AFP official said.
She was the first passenger on the ship to test positive in Japan after being released to disembark.
The news comes when infectious disease experts and local officials have questioned the effectiveness of the quarantine time on the ship.
"There was a judgment that those who disembarked after testing the negative had no problem, but it has now become clear that these people can be positive," Tochigi governor Tomokazu Fukuda said late Saturday a press conference.
"We are asking the government to take additional measures," he said.
The Japanese authorities have stated that they have decided to board passengers who tested negative during the quarantine period because they took steps to prevent the virus from spreading. Passengers were confined to their cabins, with the exception of short trips on the open deck when they were required to wear gloves and masks, and keep a distance from fellow passengers.
However, infectious disease specialist Kentaro Iwata said the situation on the ship was "totally messy" and violated quarantine procedures, which rarely leads to blunt criticism in Japanese jurisdiction.
The Kobe University professor later said he had heard from a colleague on board that the quarantine procedures had improved, but still recommended that anyone leaving the ship be monitored for at least 14 days and avoided contact with others ,
According to local media, about 970 passengers have disembarked since Wednesday, who tested negative after the government quarantined the ship on February 5.
On Saturday, around 100 other passengers were allowed to disembark, who were reported to have been in close contact with infected people on board.
They included the last group of Japanese passengers while some foreign passengers were still waiting on board for their governments to send chartered planes.
With the last disembarkation, a 14-day quarantine for more than 1,000 crew members still on board is expected to begin.
Many of them were not placed in isolation as they were needed to keep the ship going – preparing food and delivering meals to cabins.
Critics have accused them of accidentally spreading the virus throughout the ship, where more than 600 cases of potentially fatal COVID-19 disease have occurred.
Katsunobu Kato defended Japan's quarantine on board and told a television program on Saturday that there was no medical facility large enough to accommodate more than 3,000 people at a time.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)