17 new virus cases confirmed in Japan, total at 637

TOKYO Japan confirmed 17 more cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections across the country to 637, excluding 696 people who were aboard the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship, the authorities said.

The death toll rose six to 18, excluding seven from the cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo in February, according to the health ministry and local governments.

Among the country’s 47 prefectures, the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, which has been under a state of emergency, reported the most cases at 128. Aichi in central Japan confirmed 104, followed by Osaka in western Japan with 80 and Tokyo with 73.

On Thursday, the Lower House of parliament passed a bill that would enable Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency if needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The bill, which won the approval at the Lower House plenary session, is expected to clear the Upper House on Friday.

If the prime minister declares a state of emergency, local governments can require residents to stay indoors, close schools and cancel or postpone large-scale events. The pneumonia-like disease, known as COVID-19, originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

Source: Kuwait News Agency