Seven Australians are among the 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus onboard Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess and all 3,700 passengers and crew members will be quarantined.
Japanese health officials provided an update on Friday February 7, saying that 41 more people on Diamond Princess have tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the vessel to 61.
Three patients are relatively young, aged between 20 and 40, while the remaining 38 are between 50 and 80 years old, and most are in their 70s.
None are in a serious condition but will be transferred to Tokyo and other cities for treatment.
There are 233 other Australians currently on board the Diamond Princess, some of them keeping in touch with each other by phone as they are confined to their rooms. The line confirms that there are 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew currently onboard covering a range of nationalities. About half the guests are from Japan.
Health officials have been testing samples from 120 people who developed symptoms such as fever and coughing, and 153 others who had close contact with those showing symptoms.
The ten newly confirmed patients will be transferred to medical institutions in Kanagawa Prefecture. Previously, the first 10 confirmed cases were taken ashore by Japanese Coast Guard watercraft and transported to local hospitals for care by shoreside Japanese medical professionals, Princess Cruises told CNBC.
14-day ship quarantine
The ship is currently under a 14-day quarantine at anchor off the coast of Yokohama. Japanese officials began screening passengers on the ship Monday night February 3, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, after an 80-year-old male Hong Kong passenger was tested positive for coronavirus after he disembarked the Diamond Princess in Hong Kong.
Passengers are currently ordered to stay inside their cabins and medical officials are going room-by-room to check each guests’ temperature and medical condition, Japan’s health ministry said in a statement.
(Japanese guest live tweeting the quarantine shows officials on board Diamond Princess)
The line also said it will continue to provide guests with complimentary internet and phone service. The ship will go out to sea to “perform normal marine operations,” the company said, such as “the production of fresh water and ballast operations before proceeding alongside in Yokohama where food, provisions, and other supplies will be brought onboard”.
The line has also responded to passenger requests for assistance in refilling their prescription medication. Each cabin is given a questionnaire that will allow guests to list the medication that they’ll need for the next 14 days. All completed forms are to be placed in the mailbox outside their stateroom for collection, so the line can start working on filling the prescriptions free of charge.
In the latest update today, Princess Cruises says that guests in inside and non-balcony staterooms are now permitted to get fresh air on a rotating basis, as directed by Public Health authorities. They are also providing many in-room activities and additional entertainment options.
Mr Abel shared on his Facebook that the passengers with inside cabins are allowed to walk on the deck for 90 minutes under the supervision of quarantine officers. They must also stay one metre apart from one another and not make contact or congregate in groups.
British passenger, David Abel, has also been sharing video updates from his ninth-deck cabin. He is an insulin-dependent diabetic and was concerned about being able to receive room service breakfast at his regular mealtime at 7 am.
“This is not a good situation for me as a diabetic and I’m certain that there are many more diabetics on the ship … Phoning through to room service as I’ve tried a couple of times, can’t get through … People such as me who are insulin-dependent, have to have a food intake to avoid going into a hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose),” says Mr Abel in his video.
Other passengers have shared pictures of the meals they were getting on board.
Australian cruiser Olivia Capodicasa from Melbourne is on board the ship with her grandmother on their final of the cruise when the quarantine began. She told the Sunrise on Thursday morning: “It has been a hell of a 24 hours stuck in here … I think it is really starting to hit me now that this is the reality and I’m not going home anytime soon.” She has been “watching a bunch of movies over and over again to pass the time.
Also on board are Cairns couple Paul and Jacqui Fidrmuc who said they were holding up okay.
The pair told the Nine Network the ship was eerily quiet on Thursday. “We are just kind of sitting tight really,” Mrs Fidrmuc said.
‘It’s a little bit daunting. But look, we can’t do anything… We are good strong healthy people and we’ve got good immune systems and fingers crossed that … we can fight it off.’
Brisbane couple Karen and John Welch said they had not heard anything about when they can leave.
“We have not heard a thing. I wish they would get on to the job. They need to get us off this ship,” Mr Welch told the Today show on Friday morning.
He said they were keeping in touch with other Aussies on the ship by phone because they are not allowed out of their rooms.
“I have spoken to quite a few Australians on the phone here. We keep in contact. No-one’s heard anything,” he said.
First passenger confirmed with coronavirus
The first passenger who was tested positive for coronavirus was an 80-year-old Hong Kong male. He flew to Japan to board the ship on January 20, and disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25.
After arriving in Hong Kong, the ship continued its round-trip journey to ultimately take other passengers back to Yokohama, which is near Tokyo, today.
He was tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday, February 1 at a local Hong Kong hospital. He had developed a cough the day before embarking but didn’t develop a fever until January 30, NHK reported.
While on the ship he did not visit the ship’s medical centre to report any symptoms or illness. The hospital reports that he is in stable condition and the family members traveling with him remain symptom-free, Princess Cruises shares in a statement.
“The safety, security and well-being of all guests and crew is our absolute priority. The review of the arriving guests and crew, by Japanese health authorities, is standard practice after a guest tested positive for coronavirus and we are working closely with the local authorities to provide detailed records to facilitate their review, ” Princess Cruises said in a statement.
Cancelled future sailings
Princess Cruises announced that they will be cancelling the next two Diamond Princess cruises departing Yokohama on February 4 and February 12.
A letter from Princess to a guest on the February 4 sailing offers guests refunds and reimbursement of unexpected expenses.
Other affected cruise lines
Dream Cruises’ World Dream is also facing a quarantine after eight passengers who were on the China-Vietnam cruise have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
The itinerary sailed from Nansha, Guangzhou to Vietnam on January 19, before returning on January 24.
The cruise ship which has 3,600 passengers and crew was originally bound for Taiwan, but had to return to Hong Kong after Taiwanese government prohibited it from proceeding to its port of call in Kaohsiung on February 5.
Thirty-three crew members of a cruise ship that was quarantined in Hong Kong tested negative for coronavirus Thursday, according to a statement from the cruise company. All had reported symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
In addition, one crew member who developed fever symptoms is waiting for test results.
While the ship is in quarantine, no passengers or crew members are allowed to leave.
The Guangdong province has issued an emergency alert for the 4,000 passengers who sailed on the itinerary, urging them to report to local disease control centres.
The Guangdong authorities are also scrambling to track down the passengers.
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