By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) – Two Japanese nationals evacuated on the first chartered flight from Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic, have pneumonia symptoms but a coronavirus diagnosis has not been confirmed, hospital representatives said on Wednesday.
Among 206 Japanese nationals evacuated to Tokyo, five have been hospitalized, with two of those showing signs of having pneumonia following scans.
A further seven would be hospitalized as they showed symptoms such as fever and coughing, the healthy ministry said on its website.
Almost all others were checked for symptoms and cleared to return home, and are being asked to avoid going out for at least two weeks while receiving regular medical checkups, the ministry said. Two passengers refused to be taken to the hospital for checks but were escorted home, it said.
“I was extremely worried that I was stuck there while the situation was changing very rapidly,” Takeo Aoyama, a Nippon Steel employee, told reporters at the airport after being evacuated from Wuhan, which is in virtual lockdown.
“I feel really relieved now that I have been brought back in a speedy manner like this on a chartered flight,” said Aoyama, who was wearing a mask. Some 450 Japanese nationals are waiting to be evacuated and the government will dispatch a second flight to Wuhan on Wednesday evening.
Japan on Tuesday reported the first case of a possible transmission inside the country – a Japanese tour bus driver who was infected after coming into contact with Chinese visitors. Public broadcaster NHK said late on Wednesday that the tour bus’s guide, a woman residing in Osaka, also tested positive, bringing the country’s total number of patients to eight.
The death toll from the coronavirus, believed to have originated in a Wuhan market which illegally sold wildlife, rose sharply to 132 on Wednesday, with nearly 1,500 new cases.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a special task force to deal with the epidemic would be set up on Thursday.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Akira Tomoshige, Sakura Murakami, Chang-Ran Kim and Sam Nussey; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Chizu Nomiyama)