Coronavirus outbreak: 41 more test positive on ship of doom as grim passengers call it 'floating prison'

Before Friday's 41 confirmed cases, 20 passengers who were found infected with the virus were escorted off the Diamond Princess at Yokohama, near Tokyo


                            Coronavirus outbreak: 41 more test positive on ship of doom as grim passengers call it 'floating prison'
(Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)

Japan has reported 41 new cases of the novel coronavirus infection among people on the cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo, raising the total to 61.

The Diamond Princess, which is anchored off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo, has over 3700 passengers and crew members on board. Passengers have been asked to monitor their temperatures on a regular basis.

If it increases above normal, they have been asked to contact the medical services onboard the ship. Every passenger has been given priority numbers to call.

 The origin of the infection is said to be an 80-year-old passenger on the Japanese-operated cruise ship, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus after leaving the vessel while it was in Hong Kong on January 25. 

Hong Kong health authorities reportedly notified the ship about the passenger's infection on February 7, six days after he got off the ship, after he failed to be caught on thermal screening, according to a recording of the announcement tweeted by a passenger.

Subsequently, Health Minister Nobukatsu Kato had said all the 3,700 people and passengers on the ship will be quarantined on board for up to 14 days under Japanese law.

The cruise ship Diamond Princess is anchored at Yokohama Port. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

While 10 people were confirmed with the infected after initial tests, 10 more cases were found positive subsequently. Officials said on Friday that 61 people from the ship had the novel coronavirus.

Before Friday's 41 confirmed cases, 20 passengers who were found infected with the virus were escorted off the Diamond Princess at Yokohama. They were dropped off as the ship docked and transferred to nearby hospitals for further tests and treatment. 

The transmission is not completely clear and others may have gotten the virus when they got off The Diamond Princess at other port calls in Vietnam, Taiwan, Kagoshima, and Okinawa. The ship returned to Yokohama on February 3, said sources. 

David Abel, a passenger who is currently quarantined inside the ship, started the cruise to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. 

"It's not going to be a luxury cruise; it's going to be like a floating prison," Abel said on Facebook from the ship, reported AP

According to Abel, for many passengers, the quarantine will be extremely boring. He considers himself lucky that he has a cabin with a balcony. "The people I feel really sorry for are those with inside cabins who've got no natural light, no fresh air. It's going to be pretty grim for them for two weeks," he shared.

In a live Facebook post on February 6, Abel said: "We are trying to keep up to date with everything that’s happening onboard the ship. We do get some announcements from the captain."

He continued, "The last major announcement was we are to take our temperatures regularly. I must be getting paranoid as I have taken mine three times in the last hour."

He added, "The people on the inside cabins — most of them now, if not all — have been allowed 90 minutes of time up on the deck" provided they stay one meter apart, not congregate in large groups, wear face masks and gloves, among other measures and stay under the supervision of Japanese health/quarantine experts.

Abel said there could be worse places that one could be confined in. "This is comfortable, plenty of room to walk around. We have a nice balcony, and we have talked to other passengers," he said. 

He added that one passenger put up a huge bed sheet and has written on it, "help, please deliver some corona," referring to the beer, not the virus. 

Abel said in another Facebook post that one of the 41 patients found infected with the virus, is a person on honeymoon, who is going to be split from his wife. “He is going to be taken to a medical facility and she will have to remain on board. That is going to be very tough.”

He said passengers have been given a paper, and whichever country a passenger is from, they will now be able to contact a direct hotline to their government to get the news (for example, quarantine measures in their respective countries) they are looking for. 

Officials in protective suits walk alongside supplies to be loaded on to the cruise ship Diamond Princess (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Japanese health officials told the media that a medical team and supplies were being sent to the ship.

As Japanese officials loaded the Diamond Princess with supplies to make the quarantine as bearable as possible, passengers took to social media to "highlight kindnesses by the crew and to complain about dwindling medicine, the quality of the food and the inability to exercise or even leave their cabins."

Their photos and videos showed how the vessel has transformed into a ghost ship, with deserted reception areas, swimming pools and hallways. People posted photos of breakfast — fruit salad, boiled eggs, juice and a croissant. 

"We're here for a long haul. I think it is going to get a little bit testing, obviously. But I don't know. What do we do? We couldn't jump out of the boat; that's a bit cold," Jacqui Fidrmuc from the city of Cairns told Australia’s Nine Network, reported AP. 

While sick people have been taken off the ship, there was still unease. "We've been breathing the same air as those that have been removed," Abel said, according to AP. 

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Thursday that Japan will deny entry of foreign passengers on another cruise ship heading to Japan as suspected coronavirus patients have been found onboard. The ship — Holland America's cruise ship Westerdam is on its way to Okinawa from Hong Kong.

The new immigration policy takes effect on Friday to ensure border control to prevent the disease from further entering and spreading in Japan. 

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.