TOKYO: All passengers and crew onboard a ship quarantined off Japan have now been tested for the new coronavirus, the government said Tuesday (Feb 18), as more countries moved to evacuate citizens from the boat.

South Korea became the latest to announce it would remove its citizens from the Diamond Princess, where more than 400 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Japan has faced criticism for its handling of the situation, with dozens of new infections detected almost daily since the ship arrived in early February.

But it has defended its approach and health minister Katsunobu Kato insisted again Tuesday that passengers who test negative will be allowed to leave the ship from Wednesday.

"We have done tests for everyone (on the ship)," he told reporters.

"Some results have already come out … and for those whose test results are already clear, we are working to prepare disembarkation from the 19th," he said.

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READ: Americans leave quarantined cruise ship in Japan as COVID-19 cases hit 355

Kato said the process would last two or three days.

But those who had close contact with people who have tested positive will have their quarantine reset to the date of their last contact with an infected person.

Crew are also expected to remain to observe another quarantine period after the last passengers leave the ship.

So far, the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and now South Korea have said they will evacuate their citizens from the ship.

READ: Two Malaysians on Diamond Princess cruise liner tested positive for COVID-19: Health Ministry

READ: Cruise liners steer clear of mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore over COVID-19 fears

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South Korea will send a presidential aircraft on Tuesday to fly back four nationals and one Japanese spouse, an official told reporters.

There are 14 South Koreans on board in total, but the other ten have declined to be evacuated from the ship because they live in Japan, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Early Monday, more than 300 Americans were evacuated from the ship, among them over a dozen who have tested positive for the virus.

The Americans, like citizens from other countries being evacuated from ship, will have to undergo another 14-day quarantine.

READ: COVID-19: What you need to know about the Diamond Princess ship quarantined in Japan

Canada said Tuesday it had "secured a chartered flight to repatriate Canadians on board the Diamond Princess" but gave no details on when the process would take place.

There were 256 Canadians on board the ship, with 32 so far testing positive for the virus.

While foreign governments have couched their decision to remove ciRead More – Source

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