Another 88 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess in Japan, which means the vessel now has the largest concentration of cases outside of mainland China at 542.
The toll of cases has been mounting, even with the two-week quarantine period ending today, with 88 more confirmed Tuesday and 99 confirmed Monday.
However, passengers will only be able to leave the ship if they test negative for the virus.
The ministry also said 19 of the infected people are in serious condition, with some of them being treated in intensive care units.
The new cases come in a significant week for the 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the Princess ship – 228 of them Australian. The 14-day quarantine was due to end Wednesday, and Japanese health officials say they still have plans to test everyone on Tuesday. Staggered departures would take place for those who test negative from Wednesday.
Another twist in the sorry saga of how the exhausted passengers have had to live since they arrived in the port of Yokohama on February 3rd.
The 400 American passengers quarantined aboard have boarded their flight home Monday morning where they will have to serve another 14 days in quarantine before they will be allowed to restart their lives.
A similar plan is imminent from the Australian government. Scott Morrison has ruled out using Christmas Island to quarantine elderly Australians after they are evacuated from the coronavirus-struck Diamond Princess cruise ship, The Australian reported.
“There’s quite specific needs we wouldn’t be able to accommodate at Christmas Island for the more elderly group of people,” he said in Melbourne on Monday. “That’s not an option we’re considering for this operation. And we don’t have any other operations envisaged at this time.”
Darwin is now the more likely quarantine site when Australian passengers arrive home.
‘Today we have a senior medical officer, Dr Paul Armstrong, who’s boarding the ship with international authorities, obviously in a heavy quarantine and health situation,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Channel 7 Sunrise.
“He’ll report back to the National Security Committee today and if his advice is that there has been in any way a secondary round of infections, and obviously the presumption is that’s the case, then we’re looking to work with Qantas to bring these people home.”
“But we’re working with the Japanese authorities, working with Qantas, working with the health authorities in planning to bring all of those Australians home who need it.”
“…It’s likely that as the Americans have done, (Australian passengers) may need to be in a quarantine situation, but more advice coming today, decisions today and announcements today.”
The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Victorian woman Vera Koslova-Fu, has been confined to her cabin with her while two sons are also onboard the ship, as saying tensions on board were rising with a lack of clarity over what would happen next.
“I’m angry our government has not done anything useful,” she said via text message on Sunday. “Mood onboard are [sic] people are frightened of the unknown”.
American passengers onboard
According to CNN, American passengers are bewildered and angry. Some believe the move just adds to the time they have had to spend in virtual isolation, the innocent victims of a virus as yet still misunderstood.
“From tragedy to comedy to farce,” American passenger Matthew Smith was reported by CNN to have tweeted.
“The US government instead wants to take us off without testing, fly us back to the US with a bunch of other untested people, and then stick us in 2 more weeks of quarantine? How does that make any sense at all?”
For Karey Mansicalco, who owns a real estate company in Utah, the news yanked freedom from her hands at the 11th hour. “It’s like a prison sentence for something I did not do,” she told CNN from her cabin. “They are holding us hostage for absolutely no reason.”
According to American reports, medical experts are now questioning the Japanese government’s decision to quarantine people on the ship.
Peter Hotez, of the Baylor College of Medicine, said: “We’re employing what I call 14th-century approaches and ethics to individuals with transmissible disease.”
The Canadian government has announced an evacuation plan, and the Hong Kong government is arranging a chartered flight to bring home residents free of charge as soon they were permitted to disembark.
Italy and Taiwan are also preparing to send chartered aircraft to Japan.
Perhaps the real heroes of the hour are the crew of the Diamond Princess. They have managed to keep the spirits of themselves and their passenger high – but have now been told the line is imposing a further 14-day quarantine on them once the last passenger leaves.
And in another disturbing development, one passenger released from the Holland America liner Westerdam after five countries turned the ship away has now tested positive for the disease. Seven others are awaiting results in Malaysia.
Passengers have been allowed to leave the country for their homes, including Australia.
They were greeted by the Cambodian PM when they left the ship.