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Third death from cruise ship, Japan's health minister vows action

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TOKYO: A third passenger from the coronavirus-infected Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan died yesterday, the authorities said, as the government promised to introduce fresh steps to contain the outbreak.

The latest death was a Japanese man in his 80s, the health ministry said on its website, days after a couple, also in their 80s, died.

The government is facing growing questions about whether it is doing enough to stop the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 2,400 people in China.

Tokyo, which is preparing to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in July, has 102 confirmed infections, excluding the numbers on the cruise ship.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said he would hold a meeting of experts today and formulate a basic policy for addressing the disease tomorrow.

Mr Kato apologised on Saturday for allowing an infected woman to leave the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined in Yokohama since Feb 3.

The woman came ashore on Wednesday but then tested positive for the disease on Saturday in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

Mr Kato said on Saturday that officials had failed to properly test 23 people who left the ship, and his ministry was trying to contact them to be retested.

The ship, owned by Carnival Corp, was originally carrying some 3,700 passengers and crew of more than a dozen nationalities.

Some nations have flown their citizens home to undergo additional quarantines. Japanese authorities have allowed some other passengers to leave, prompting concerns they could be spreading the virus in Japan.

There have been 634 infections on the ship, according to national broadcaster NHK, making it the largest concentration of the illness outside China.

Four new cases were discovered in Japan as of yesterday evening, bringing the total to 773, including those on the ship, NHK reported. - REUTERS