Japan to step up efforts on coronavirus after first death

Community workers and medical staff visit a woman at her home as they conduct door-to-door search to inspect residents following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Tianjin, China February 12, 2020. Picture taken February 12, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday – a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo. The death was the third outside mainland China, after two others in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen countries and territories outside mainland China that have seen hundreds of infections.

Japanese policymakers vowed to step up testing and containment efforts after the death and confirmation of new cases, including a doctor and a taxi driver. 

The world’s third-largest economy is already bracing for a sharp slowdown in growth and some analysts expect another contraction in the current quarter as the virus outbreak hurts exports, output and consumption through a sharp drop in overseas tourists.

China’s coronavirus outbreak showed no sign of peaking with health authorities on Friday reporting more than 5,000 new cases, while passengers on a cruise ship blocked from five countries due to virus fears finally disembarked in Cambodia.

The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville on Thursday. It had anchored offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen greeted the passengers with handshakes and bouquets of roses as they stepped off the ship and boarded a waiting bus.

“My wife and I gave him some chocolates as a show of our appreciation,” Lou Poandel, a tourist from New Jersey, told Reuters after he disembarked and met the Cambodian leader.