Cruise Ship ‘Diamond Princess’ Quarantined In Japan Now Has More Than 130 Coronavirus Cases
This brings the total number of cases reported aboard to more than 130, according to Channel NewsAsia (CNA). Although the Japanese health ministry announces new cases aboard almost daily, this represents the single largest increase yet.
It also renders the Diamond Princess the largest concentration of n-CoV patients outside mainland China.
Ship undergoing 2-week quarantine
Japanese authorities quarantined the cruise ship in Yokohama on 3 Feb. It initially arrived with more than 3,700 passengers and crew, but that number has fallen as passengers test positive and are removed for treatment.
Japan imposed the quarantine after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong on 25 Jan tested positive for n-CoV.
Testing for some passengers is still ongoing. About 100 still aboard have reported fevers or feeling unwell.
The Japanese authorities have begun considering administering coronavirus tests on every one of the remaining 3,600 plus passengers and crew. The Japanese health minister, Katsunobu Kato, has stated that passengers will only be allowed to disembark after all tests results have been made available.
At present, there are 5 Singaporeans aboard, who are reportedly physically healthy as of Friday (7 Feb).
Passengers aboard have been confined to their rooms, and are unable to move around freely to prevent cross-infection. Many of them are the elderly, according to CNA.
Japanese authorities recently resupplied the ship with food and much-needed medication.
Elsewhere, n-CoV experienced its deadliest day yet as the virus claimed another 89 people.
Passengers complain about being trapped at sea
Many passenger reports from within the ship have emerged, and they aren’t painting a pretty picture.
Passengers have taken to social media and the press to describe their conditions. Many of them feel trapped in cramped, windowless rooms below deck. Since they aren’t allowed to leave their cabins, passengers are completely reliant on crews to deliver meals door-to-door.
Some passengers, who can hear ‘coughing through the walls‘, are worried about cross-infection through the meal delivery service.
Meal timings have been irregular, and the food being served can only be described as spartan. One passenger, Shannon, told Business Insider that she had begun hoarding food and water out of fear and uncertainty.
— だぁ(On board the Diamond Princess / 乗船中乗客) (@daxa_tw) February 10, 2020
Some passengers criticised the lackadaisical attitude displayed by the authorities during the initial health screening administered to all 3,700 passengers and crew.
Speaking to the New York Times, Masako Ishida explained how her husband’s temperature had to be taken twice because the authorities didn’t bother using their thermometers properly.
Most passengers are now passing the time on their tablets or phones. On 6 Feb, authorities allowed passengers confined to windowless rooms to come out for fresh air. Even with mandatory face masks, it was a much needed relief.
Largest population of coronavirus patients outside of China
Now that 66 new cases have been confirmed aboard, whether the Diamond Princess’ quarantine will last beyond its original end date of 19 Feb is unknown. If the Japanese authorities are serious about administering rigorous n-CoV tests to every single remaining passenger, the quarantine may have to remain in effect.
The health minister however has expressed that doing so requires serious consideration, given the challenges endemic to carrying out such a large screening.
Although material conditions aboard are reported to have improved, there is a persistent sense of dread pervading the crowded cabins. Crew members continue about, fully clad in hazmat gear, leaving passengers with few answers and ample amounts of time with which to fret.
“I might get infected today or tomorrow,” one passenger tweeted.
Passengers are trying to stay optimistic however, and messages of support have come pouring in from all over the world.
We can only hope that their ordeal ends soon.