TOKYO (Reuters) – Two Japanese nationals evacuated on the first chartered flight from Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic, have pneumonia symptoms but a coronavirus diagnosis has not been confirmed, hospital representatives said on Wednesday.

Among 206 Japanese nationals evacuated to Tokyo, five have been hospitalized, with two of those showing signs of having pneumonia following scans.

A further seven will be sent to hospital as they are showing symptoms like fever or coughing, government officials said, with a second flight being dispatched to Wuhan on Wednesday evening.

Passengers have been asked to return home or stay at a nearby hotel to receive check-ups, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier on Wednesday.

Japan has confirmed seven patients have the virus, including a Japanese tour bus driver infected after coming into contact with Chinese visitors – the first reported case of a possible transmission inside Japan, according to the health ministry.

“I was extremely worried that I was stuck there while the situation was changing very rapidly,” Takeo Aoyama, a Nippon Steel employee, told reporters at the airport after being evacuated from Wuhan, which is in virtual lockdown.

“I feel really relieved now that I have been brought back in a speedy manner like this on a chartered flight,” said Aoyama, who was wearing a mask.

The death toll from the coronavirus, believed to have originated in a Wuhan market which illegally sold wildlife, rose sharply to 132 on Wednesday, with nearly 1,500 new cases.

The government has said that a total of 650 Japanese citizens were hoping to be evacuated. A special task force to deal with the epidemic will be set up on Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

“We must act with the understanding that the situation is now different. We have come to a new stage,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said in parliament, a day after confirmation of the first suspected person-to-person infection within Japan.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Akira Tomoshige, Sakura Murakami, Chang-Ran Kim and Sam Nussey; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Philippa Fletcher


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