At least four more evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Australia have tested positive for coronavirus, as experts fear quarantines could be compromised by a longer incubation period.
The Department of Health has confirmed four more cases from the 164 people currently quarantined at the Manigurr-ma Village in Darwin, which would bring the total number of people who have returned from the ship to test positive to six.
However, ABC News has reported another case on top of the four which would bring the total to seven.
The Department of Health said the extra cases were not unexpected, given the continued evidence the infection was spreading on board the ship in recent days, despite all the health screening conducted beforehand.
Australia’s chief of medicine, Brendan Murphy, told a press conference on Sunday that the government has some evidence there was transmission in the last few days.
“Nobody quite understands how or why, and there’s a lot of investigation going on there now,” he said.
This comes as Chinese authorities voiced fears that the incubation period of the virus could be much longer than originally assumed.
ABC News reported a 70-year-old man in China’s Hubei Province, where the disease is thought to have originated, who was infected by the disease but did not show symptoms until 27 days later.
This could severely undermine the 14-day quarantine periods in place for Australians returning from infected areas.
Despite this, the Australians evacuated from Wuhan have been released from a facility in Howard Springs near Darwin after a 14-day quarantine.
More than 260 evacuees were taken by bus to Darwin’s airport for their flights home.
Travel Weekly asked the Department of Health if the possibility of an extended incubation period would mean the quarantines would be compromised.
“The Australian Government’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak is evidence-based and proportionate,” a spokesperson for the department said.
“Australian authorities continue to monitor overseas developments closely. The Australian Government reviews travel restrictions weekly, based on public health advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
“Our health emergency response arrangements are flexible and scalable, and are being tailored to most effectively respond to the evolving situation.”
Murphy told the press there is no suggestion at the moment that containment has been lost.
“But it remains a risk. And we are obviously concerned about those countries where there’s growth in numbers and continued transmission.”
Italy has also been hit by the disease, with a man from northern Italy becoming the first Italian victim of the disease.
The 78-year-old was hospitalised two weeks ago according to ABC News.
15 new cases of the disease have been diagnosed in the northern regions of Lombardy and Vento.
Authorities are also no longer recommending passengers from the Holland America Westerdam cruise ship undertake 14 days of self-isolation on return to Australia.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) said the decision was made on the basis that significant testing of passengers has not led to any further cases beyond the initial passenger.
Cambodian authorities have tested large numbers of Westerdam cruise ship travellers who are still in Cambodia and all have tested negative to date.
Featured image credit: iStock.com/DigiPubFlickr.