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Coronavirus: Cruise ship on Nile River quarantined over virus cluster

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A cruise ship on Egypt’s Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A Taiwanese-American tourist who had previously been on the same ship tested positive when she returned to Taiwan. The World Health Organization informed Egyptian authorities, who tested everyone currently on the ship.

Health authorities found a dozen of the ship’s Egyptian crew members had contracted the fast-spreading virus, but did not show symptoms, according to a statement Friday.

The statement said the 12 will be transferred to isolation in a hospital on Egypt’s north coast. The passengers — who include Americans, French and other nationalities — and the crew will remain quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results.

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Egyptian authorities have been tight-lipped about the virus outbreak, previously reporting only three confirmed cases. That’s even as the wider Mideast now has over 6,000 confirmed cases.

In hard-hit Iran, the Health Ministry said Saturday that 21 more people had died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 145. More than 1,000 infections were also confirmed overnight, bringing the total to 5,823 cases nationwide.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 16,000 cases were hospitalized across the country, with some still being tested or monitored to see if they had contracted the virus. The capital of Tehran had the most infections, with more than 1,500 cases, followed by the Shiite holy city of Qom with 668 and the northern Mazandaran province with 606 cases.

Among the dead was Fatemeh Rahabar, a 55-year-old newly elected lawmaker who passed away in Tehran, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday. She’d been elected to the next parliament that begins work in May. Earlier this week, Iranian lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri told state television that 23 members in the current parliament had the coronavirus, and urged all lawmakers to avoid the public.

The new cases in Egypt came just days after three people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. state of Texas. Officials in the city of Houston said Thursday that they believe the three were exposed to the virus while on a trip to Egypt in late February.

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It was not immediately clear if the Texan tourists were on the same boat where the cluster occurred, how long the passengers on the ship had been quarantined, nor where exactly the initial Taiwanese tourist had contracted the virus.

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