Yesterday, Japan’s Health Minister, Katsunobu Kato, disclosed another 41 people on board a cruise ship, Diamond Princess, off Japan’s coast have been tested positive for a new strain of coronavirus. With this, the number of confirmed infections on board the ship rise to 61.
Twenty people who were earlier diagnosed with the virus have already been removed from the vessel and taken to hospitals.
There are more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship and thus far, the Japanese authorities have tested 273 people aboard the ship. All passengers and crews have been quarantined within the vessel, after a former passenger, an 80-year-old man, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, was tested positive for the virus.
The cruise ship has docked at Yokohama on Thursday for a resupply of food and medical items needed for a quarantine that could last until February 19.
Mr Kato added that authorities will continue the testing of those susceptible to illness, including elderly people and those with other ailments, as well as those who had close contact with people who were newly diagnosed with the virus.
An American couple, Kent Frasure, 42, and his 35-year-old wife, Rebecca, passengers on the cruise liner had their temperatures taken on Monday and underwent additional screening the next day, including throat swabs.
Speaking to The Japan Times via Skype on Thursday morning, the couple revealed that they had not left their room for more than 24 hours. Regular meals were being delivered just outside their door by crew members wearing masks and gloves.
On Wednesday, passengers of the Diamond Princess were asked to notify the crew of any medical needs. They were told that medication would be provided free of charge.
Passengers aboard have not been able to interact with each other except by leaning over their balconies to talk with people in adjacent rooms.
Kent Frasure said he and his wife had spoken with two travelers from Canada, one in a room above them and one next door.
Japan Times quotes the Frasure’s as saying that during the cruise, the ship had made six stops, and a majority of passengers disembarked at each stop for sightseeing. Passengers visited Hong Kong Disneyland during the Lunar New Year, and shopped in Okinawa and enjoyed all other sites. He added that some passengers wore masks as a measure of precaution.
Passengers aboard the Diamond Princess have shared their stories on various social media platforms. Some posted pictures of their rooms as they were bored in isolation while others pleaded for help amid growing fears of the spreading virus.
A passenger onboard the cruise shared his worries about potentially contracting the disease soon, on Twitter. He wrote, “I keep hearing painful coughs from a foreigner in a nearby room”. He noted that as crew members were delivering meals from room to room, “I might get infected today or tomorrow”, he added.
— だぁ(On board the Diamond Princess / 乗船中) (@daxa_tw) February 5, 2020
Also among the 3,700 passengers, were British couple Elaine and John Spencer, who boarded the vessel at Singapore’s Marina Bay Cruise Center for a 29-night cruise of South-east Asia and Japan.
Answering queries posed by the Straits Times, the couple expressed that they are not worried of contracting the infectious virus.
“We are very good at washing our hands,” said Mrs Spencer, who by profession is a health and social care trainer.
Regarding food service that takes up to three hours to be sent up their rooms, the Spencer’s acknowledge that the staff are doing their best at a pressing time.
Despite being confined to just their room, the British couple are taking the whole episode in their stride.
“We’ve been married a long time, so I think we’ll be okay, we won’t strangle each other,” she quipped. The couple are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year.
Overall, cases of the infectious disease have been reported in more than twenty nations, with a majority of them in Mainland China which is the epicentre of the virus outbreak.
To date, China has reported more than 636 deaths, with over 31,161 confirmed cases. Japan has the second most confirmed cases after China with 86 cases.