The United States is preparing to evacuate American passengers aboard a cruise ship anchored off the coast of Japan after dozens of people tested positive for the newly-discovered COVID-19 coronavirus.
In an email sent to passengers on Friday by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, passengers aboard the cruise ship were notified they would be evacuated on Sunday.
"The aircraft will arrive in Japan the evening of Feb. 16," the email said. "Buses will move you and your belongings from the ship to the aircraft."
Passengers will be screened for symptoms and anyone who is symptomatic will remain in Japan to receive medical attention, the email added.
At least 218 of the 711 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently anchored off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, have tested positive for the virus. At least 32 of those patients were Americans.
Meanwhile, the first death from COVID-19 outside Asia was reported in France this weekend. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said an 80-year-old Chinese man from China's Hubei province, where the disease is believed to have originated, died this week. Buzyn said the patient was placed in isolation at a local hospital nine days after he arrived in France on Jan. 16. The 80-year-old's daughter has also been infected, but her condition is not believed to be as serious as her father.
As of late Friday, Chinese health officials confirmed a total of 66,492 cases of COVID-19, with the death toll increasing to 1,523 - the majority of which occurred in mainland China. More than 1,700 Chinese medical workers have been infected with the new coronavirus, and six have died, officials said Friday.
There have been more than 580 cases confirmed outside mainland China, with three fatalities in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Japan. Europe has 46 confirmed cases of the disease that first emerged in December. Germany has reported having the most cases at 16. The United States has 15 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus so far.
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