Two passengers from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, the country's public broadcaster NHK has reported, as a second group of passengers began disembarking after two-weeks quarantined onboard.
More than 620 of the passengers on the Diamond Princess liner have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3700 people on board.
NHK, citing a government source, said the passengers were a man and woman in their 80s.
The rapid spread of the disease - Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China - has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan's response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis.
In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus.
About 500 passengers were set to disembark on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said.
An initial batch of passengers who had tested negative and shown no symptoms left the vessel on Wednesday.
Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew.
The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete.
A teenage Australian girl is one of 10 Australians kept on the ship after testing positive to the deadly virus just hours before they were due to board the plane back to Australia.
Mum Aun Na Tan revealed the news in a post to social media, explaining it was as they were pushing their bags out of their cabin that they were told their 16-year-old daughter Kaitlyn’s test from Monday was positive.
“We will not be taking the flight tonight. Our family will stay together,” one of her posts read.
More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a pre-dawn departure from Tokyo's Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine in Darwin.
Buses escorted by police cars transported the Australian passengers from Yokohama to Tokyo's Haneda Airport late Wednesday.
The buses drove the Australians straight to the tarmac, where they boarded the government-chartered plane.
Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said.
An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.
Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights.
Disembarked Japanese passengers face no such quarantine restrictions, a decision that has sparked debate.
The spread of the virus has raised concerns about planning for the Tokyo Summer Olympics as well as the impact on Japan's economy.
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