Several buses with curtained windows were seen driving away from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored in the Japanese port of Yokohama, on Friday.
According to the cruise ship administration, Japanese health officials were expected to carry out voluntary disembarkation, with the most medically vulnerable guests going first, including older passengers with pre-existing health conditions.
Members of this group will reportedly be tested for the coronavirus and in case of positive results will be transported to a local hospital for further examination. If proven negative, they will be given the option of leaving the ship and being transported to a quarantine housing facility.
The vessel was quarantined when it arrived in Yokohama early last week after it emerged that some passengers who disembarked in Hong Kong last month tested positive for the flu-like respiratory illness.
On Thursday, the number of people infected by the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, aboard the Diamond Princess reached 218, with 44 new confirmed cases.
According to the latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the novel coronavirus has claimed more than 1,100 lives and infected more than 60,000 worldwide.