Hong Kong (CNN)The number of cases of the novel coronavirus has risen to over 69,000 worldwide, with the first death from Covid-19 reported in Europe.
As of Sunday morning, there were 68,500 cases of the virus recorded in mainland China, an increase of 2,009 on the previous day. Chinese health authorities recorded an additional 142 deaths on Saturday, bringing the global total to 1,669, all but four of which occurred in mainland China.
The first death to occur outside of Asia was reported in France on Saturday: an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who had been receiving treatment for Covid-19 since January 25. Deaths have also occurred in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.
So far, almost 9,500 patients with the coronavirus have been treated and discharged from hospitals across China, the country’s health authorities said.
There are concerns, however, that the stringent quarantine measures taken across the country may have not been enough to contain the virus’ spread — several major cities have now been on lockdown for nearly a month. On Saturday, authorities in Beijing ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers returning to the city, with anyone found violating the rules subject to potential legal repercussions.
Thousands of passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked at the Japanese port of Yokohama, are days away from the official end of their two-week quarantine.
On Saturday, Japan said another 67 cases had been confirmed on board the ship, bringing the total to 286. It is the largest outbreak of the virus outside of mainland China.
Some passengers will be able to leave Sunday, with the United States providing a charter flight to transport its citizens on board the ship home. But those who boarded the plane would have to endure another 14-day quarantine, this time at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield California or Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, when arriving back on US soil. They will not be housed alongside people who have been placed under quarantine after returning to the country from China.
“The US government has chartered flights that will depart Yokohama to the United States on Sunday, February 16,” the country’s embassy in Tokyo said in a letter to passengers Sunday. “These charter flights are the only opportunity for eligible passengers to fly to the United States until March 4, 2020, at the earliest. This date is 14 days after the remaining passengers are expected to depart the ship on February 19.”
The letter added that “passengers and crew members (on board the Diamond Princess) are at high risk of exposure” to the virus and the government was therefore “chartering these flights to minimize the risks to your health going forward.”
“No symptomatic or infected passengers will be allowed to board,” it said.
The offer to leave comes as operator Princess Cruises warned passengers that disembarkation could take several days, beyond the official end of their quarantine period.
“The Japanese government have informed us that they may start a new testing process for guests beginning February