TOKYO -- As the number of people infected with the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in the Port of Yokohama continues to rise, the Japanese government has scrambled to inform media outlets to report them as separate to infected totals in Japan.
Tokyo's argument is based on the assertion that the passengers are not on Japanese soil. As of 7 p.m. on Feb. 10, the number of people infected on the Diamond Princess stood at 135. Adding the currently confirmed 26 cases in Japan, the total reaches 161; the highest outside China. Concerns are rife that if the virus is perceived to be widespread in Japan, it may cause a blow to tourism and the economy.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the Japanese government submitted a request to the World Health Organization (WHO) asking for the separation of numbers of those infected on the cruise ship and in Japan. As a result, from the WHO's Feb. 6 Situation Report on the virus' spread, cruise ship infections were split off into an "other" category.
The health ministry has been announcing separate results for Japan-based and cruise-based infections, but many media outlets have reported them both together while including a note that it includes the numbers from the Diamond Princess.
At a Feb. 10 press conference, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said, "We would like to see each news organization taking into consideration the WHO's policy of separating infected cases in Japan and on the cruise ship, and report in a way that is more appropriate to the facts."
An individual connected to the government indicated their unhappiness with the situation, saying, "The cruise ship just happened to dock in Japan. If we're going to include those figures with the number of those infected in Japan, countries will stop accepting cruises."
A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "There could be a spread in countries putting in controls against people from Japan entering, as there has been against China."
But since the number of confirmed cases in Japan also includes many Japanese nationals who are believed to have been infected before coming home on government-chartered jets from Hubei Province, some criticize that the government has not been consistent in reporting the figures by claiming those on the cruise ship have not been on Japanese soil.
(Japanese original by Ryuko Tadokoro, Political News Department)