For over two weeks now, a cruise ship has been docked in Japan, and the 3,700 passengers and crew have not been allowed to disembark because some of the travelers have been infected with the coronavirus. Despite efforts to quarantine the passengers, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues to rise.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship has been docked at the port in Yokohama, Japan, since February 3, after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the 3,711 passengers and crew on board the ship, there are 542 who reportedly have the coronavirus. On Tuesday alone, there were 88 new cases of coronavirus.
This is extremely concerning because the passengers were quarantined. Passengers were required to stay isolated in their suites or cabins, but it has not stopped the spread of the virus.
Nathalie MacDermott, an outbreak expert at King’s College London, told the New York Post that the quarantine has failed.
“There’s no reason this should not have worked it if had been done properly,” MacDermott said. “Obviously, the quarantine hasn’t worked, and this ship has now become a source of infection.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, commented on the coronavirus cruise ship.
“I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed,” Fauci told USA Today. “People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.”
The U.S. government sent two chartered cargo jets to Japan in an effort to evacuate the American citizens off of the Diamond Princess. On Sunday, two flights carrying 328 Americans left Tokyo, Japan. Reportedly 14 of the passengers were infected with COVID-19. They will be quarantined for at least 14 more days.
The coronavirus cruise ship passengers were taken to military bases in Texas and California. The high-risk passengers were transferred to the National Quarantine Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Shocking to believe, but there were 61 Americans who declined the offer to be flown back to the United States. Despite recommendations from the government, there were 61 people who wanted to stay on the coronavirus cruise ship. Must have been the chocolate buffet night on the cruise. Hard to pass up that chocolate fountain.
“After consultation with HHS officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process,” the Health and Human Services Department said.
Some of the Diamond Princess passengers were allowed to leave the ship starting on Tuesday night. A few of the passengers who tested negative for the COVID-19 and didn’t show any symptoms during the quarantine were allowed to leave the ship. The disembarkation process will take several days, according to Japanese health officials.
On February 18, China’s National Health Commission released the latest coronavirus statistics. The updated totals show there are a total of 74,185 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 2,004 people have died from the illness.
“Given how the virus has continued to spread, we have to presume everyone leaving the ship is potentially infected, and therefore they have to go through another two-week quarantine period,” said Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in England.
“A number of guests are beginning to disembark Diamond Princess as part of their individual countries’ responses,” said Rai Caluori, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. “We are providing information to those who disembark so we can remain in full contact and provide travel support once the quarantine requirements in their home countries are complete.”
“Embassy officials in many countries are now reaching out to their citizens directly, and we urge everyone who is contacted to read those communications very closely,” Princess Cruises said. “These messages provide critical information about the resources being made available as well as additional requirements that may impact someone’s return home in the event they decline their country’s repatriation offer. We will also shortly provide our guests more detail about the resources we can provide once the shipboard quarantine period is complete.”
Celebrity chef José Andrés set up a mobile kitchen on the dock where the Diamond Princess is sitting to provide food for the passengers and give the staff of the ship a much-needed break.