Another 70 people have tested positive on a virus-stricken cruise ship quarantined in Japan, despite officials saying overall numbers of coronavirus cases in China have fallen.
China's latest figures showed 68,500 cases of the illness and 1665 deaths, most of them in Hubei.
The National Health Commission reported on Sunday 2009 new cases, down from 2641 the previous day, and 142 new deaths, just one lower than the 143 on the previous day.
All but four of the new deaths were in Hubei.
Outside mainland China, there have been about 500 cases in some two dozen countries and territories, with four deaths - in Japan, Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, the Philippines and France.
The biggest cluster outside China has been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan's Yokohama, with 70 more cases reported on Sunday, taking the total to 355 of the roughly 3700 passengers and crew on board.
Around 200 Australians are believed to be onboard the ship.
Those testing positive have been sent to hospital. No one from the ship has died of the virus.
The US Embassy in Tokyo said passengers and crew were at high risk of exposure to the virus and it recommended that the estimated 400 US citizens onboard get off and take one of the evacuation flights it is arranging on Sunday.
The embassy said everyone would be screened before being allowed to board the chartered flights and quarantined for 14 days upon arrival back in the US.
"No symptomatic or infected passengers will be allowed to board," it said.
Hong Kong said it planned to send aircraft for some 330 of its residents, while Canada said it too would send a plane for its citizens on the cruise ship.
The Australian embassy in Tokyo emailed citizens aboard the ship to say the federal government was examining options to assist them.
It comes as Chinese health commission spokesman Mi Feng said the campaign to curb the spread of coronavirus was beginning to show results.
"The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing," Mi told reporters on Sunday.
More medical support and preventive measures in Hubei had headed off more critical cases and the proportion of critical cases among confirmed cases was falling, Mi said.
Mild cases were also being treated more quickly, preventing them from becoming critical, Mi said.
Earlier, it was revealed that more than 200 Australians who have been quarantined on Christmas Island for two weeks waiting to be cleared of any symptoms of coronavirus are due to head home on Monday.
The federal government, however, is keeping details of their departure under wraps.
The Department of Home Affairs is sticking to the line that the Australian Border Force is making arrangements to transfer those who have been quarantined on Christmas Island once they have been medically cleared.
"The government will continue to provide routine updates when appropriate," a Home Affairs spokesperson told AAP on Sunday.
None of those quarantined on Christmas Island have tested positive after being evacuated from the Chinese province of Hubei, the epicentre of the COVID-19 virus.
An Australian infectious disease expert is also in Japan to help authorities cope with concerns for passengers aboard the Diamond Princess ship.
The expert joins an international team to gather information about the passengers, including the 200 Australians aboard.
The US is sending an aircraft to Japan to bring back US passengers on the Diamond Princess, where the most coronavirus infections outside China have occurred.
The federal government last week extended the two-week travel ban from mainland China for another seven days to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry states it's "absolutely paramount" to keep citizens safe from the virus, but it is a "savage blow" to the nation's tourism.
"Tourism and trade would greatly benefit from even a partial lifting of the ban from provinces in China that present a much lower risk to Australians," Australian Chamber Tourism Executive chair John Hart wrote.
The Maritime Union of Australia is concerned its members are at risk by the arrival of container vessels from mainland China, which it says in some cases are docking in breach of the travel ban.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese raised the issue with the government and the chief medical officer, and has been assured they are aware of the situation.
No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus and the first group of evacuees are due to return home on Monday.
Of the 15 coronavirus cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.
In China, the total number of people infected by the virus rose to more than 66,000 on Saturday, with the number of deaths passing 1500.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-diamond-princess-australian-expert-assess-stranded-rescue-possible/f1aa779f-63c8-4f45-832d-50f1f74f9309