WAKAYAMA – A man in his 70s has tested positive for COVID-19 after being treated at a hospital in Wakayama Prefecture where a doctor who is also infected with the new coronavirus worked, local officials said Friday.
The news comes a day after Japan reported its first death linked to the outbreak and confirmed two other new infections, in addition to the growing number of cases among passengers and crew of a quarantined cruise ship off Yokohama.
The surgeon in his 50s, who work for Saiseikai Arida Hospital in the town of Yuasa, was confirmed Thursday to have become the first doctor in Japan to be infected with the virus.
The new case in Wakayama, a man in his 70s, has developed severe pneumonia and is hospitalized at a different facility, the Wakayama Prefectural Government said.
Prefectural officials said the man had symptoms including a fever before visiting the hospital, adding that infections might be spreading outside the hospital.
The doctor developed a fever on Jan. 31 and took leave for two days, but he worked between Feb. 3 and 5 while he still had a slight fever. He was diagnosed with pneumonia on Feb. 8 and was hospitalized on Monday.
Health minister Katsunobu Kato said the central government is preparing to send an expert to the hospital to cope with in-house infection.
On Thursday, a Japanese woman in her 80s was confirmed to be nation’s first fatality linked to the outbreak, Kato said.
The woman from Kanagawa Prefecture, who had not traveled overseas recently, was found to be infected with the virus after she died, Kato said. She had been diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized since Feb. 1, the health ministry said, adding that her breathing deteriorated on Feb. 6.
The woman’s son-in-law, a Tokyo taxi driver in his 70s, was among the new cases reported on Thursday, government officials said.
The driver was quoted by a Tokyo Metropolitan Government official as saying that he had not transported foreign visitors in the two weeks before he showed symptoms. Health authorities are seeking to determine how he got the virus.
Also on Thursday, a Chiba Prefecture man in his 20s tested positive for the virus.
The new cases bring Japan’s number of confirmed infections to 34, not including the 218 who have tested positive from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The tally includes foreign tourists visiting from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the viral outbreak, and a Japanese bus driver who had close contact with Chinese tourists in Japan.
The government will send a fifth charter flight to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday. While the details are still being decided, it will likely leave Sunday night and return to Japan the following morning, Motegi told a news conference.
Japan has so far repatriated a total of 763 people from Wuhan and the nearby Hubei Province on four flights amid a wide-scale lockdown of the area.
The government has been stepping up its efforts to prevent the spread of infections and strengthen border controls. It has decided to spend a total of ¥15.3 billion ($140 million) on emergency steps against the virus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will make sure that over 600 million masks will be supplied a month.