TOKYO — Japan's health ministry confirmed Thursday that two elderly passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship have died from the new virus, becoming the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel.
Japan now has three deaths linked to the COVID-19 illness.
Japan's NHK public television said both were Japanese in their 80s. A health ministry official only confirmed that they had been previously been hospitalized in serious condition. The official spoke anonymously, citing office protocol.
The new virus began in China late last year has sickened tens of thousands of people, mostly in China.
The Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama, near Tokyo, started letting passengers who tested negative for the virus leave the ship Wednesday.