Two passengers from a cruise ship quarantined in Japan, have died after contracting the Covid-19 virus.
The two Japanese citizens were in their 80s and had underlying health conditions, local media said.
At least 621 people on the Diamond Princess tested positive for the virus – the biggest cluster outside mainland China.
Meanwhile China, where the outbreak began, has seen a sharp drop in the number of new infections.
The Diamond Princess was carrying 3,700 people in total and passengers who tested negative for the virus began leaving the ship on Wednesday after a 14 day quarantine.
Passengers continue to disembark on Thursday.
The two passengers who died had already been taken off the ship last week and were being treated in hospitals.
As infections continue to rise, there has been growing criticism over Japan’s handling of the quarantine on the Diamond Princess.
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Japanese health expert Kentaro Iwata, professor at the infectious diseases division of Japan’s Kobe University, visited the Diamond Princess and said the situation on board was “completely chaotic”.
He explained his criticism in a widely shared YouTube video which he has since taken offline.
US officials have also said moves to contain the virus “may not have been sufficient”.
But on Thursday a Japanese health ministry official responded to Mr Iwata’s criticism, saying authorities had worked hard to deal with a very complicated situation.
Meanwhile in China, authorities have reported the biggest drop coronavirus cases in nearly a month.
There were 394 new confirmed cases and 114 deaths reported on Wednesday, down from 1,749 new cases on Tuesday, the National Health Commission said.
Overall, there have now been more 2,118 deaths and more than 75,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China. About 16,000 patients have recovered.
There are more than 1,000 cases outside of China with the biggest cluster on the Diamond Princess in Japan, followed by Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.
Iran says two people infected with the virus have died in the city of Qom – the first reported deaths in the Middle East.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong said a 70-year-old man with underlying illnesses became the territory’s second fatality.
France, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan have each had one death attributed to the virus.
Sharp rise in South Korea
South Korea on Thursday announced a jump of 31 confirmed Covid-19 infections – 23 of them from a newly identified cluster at a large church community. South Korea now has a total of 82 confirmed cases.
The church cluster is in the south-western city of Daegu and is believed to be linked to a 61-year-old woman who was confirmed to be infected earlier this week.
The Korean Centre for Disease Control said that the woman had contact with 166 people, who were asked to self-quarantine, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
The church, a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, said it had shut down the Daegu branch and that services in other regions would be held online or individually at home.
Authorities in Daegu have also warned of the possibility of more infections in coming days and asked people in the city to stay indoors.
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