Coronavirus: Ten more people on cruise ship in Japan test positive; 13 passengers disembark in Naha

The Diamond Princess cruise ship with over 3,000 people on board arrives at Yokohama port on Feb 6, 2020. The ship was caught up in the coronavirus epidemic after an 80-year-old passenger tested positive for the virus on Jan 25.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship with over 3,000 people on board arrives at Yokohama port on Feb 6, 2020. The ship was caught up in the coronavirus epidemic after an 80-year-old passenger tested positive for the virus on Jan 25.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Ten more people on a quarantined cruise liner in a Japanese port have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Thursday (Feb 6), taking the number of infected passengers to 20 with test results on more than 170 still pending.

About 3,700 people are facing at least two weeks of quarantine on the Diamond Princess ship in Yokohoma, south of Tokyo, after 10 people were initially confirmed with the virus and moved to medical facilities.

The total number of coronavirus patients in Japan is now 45.

Test results on around 171 people from the cruise ship are still pending. The 10 new cases included four Japanese, two Americans, two Canadians, one person from New Zealand and one from Taiwan.

Carnival’s Diamond Princess was caught up in the global coronavirus epidemic after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man tested positive for the virus after disembarking late last month. The ship arrived in Yokohama on Monday after a 14-day round trip.

One passenger said the vessel docked in the port to take on supplies, with food delivery to rooms very slow.

“It’s surprising how the ship that was turning out 5,000 gourmet meals three times a day has found it difficult to deliver sandwiches and one hot meal. Where did they put the Escargot and sushi?,” Ms Gay Courter, a 75-year-old American novel writer told Reuters.

“Of course our biggest worry is that we have been infected at some point,” she said.

“We are hopeful that the US government will be sending transport for the Americans on board it’s better for us to travel while healthy and also if we get sick to be treated in American hospitals.”

Another passenger using the handle @daxa–tw tweeted early Thursday morning that crew members handed out medication refill request forms for those in need of medicines.

Arrangements are being made to send a fourth chartered plane to Wuhan to pick up around 200 people, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. These are likely to include Chinese spouses as well as Japanese.

A health ministry official said detailed tests will be carried out on all passengers.

The city of Naha in Okinawa Prefecture is on high alert after the ship made a port call there last Saturday, with 13 passengers leaving the ship for good and many of the rest spending the day touring the tropical island.

“What people here are worried about is that pretty nearly everybody on the ship came off and went sightseeing in the area,” said Mr Tadashi Nakasone, deputy head of the Naha Public Health Office, who said the current focus was on tracing the paths of people later found to be infected.

“Drivers who drove them around to see things, and people who work in stores and shopping areas popular with foreigners are especially worried. We’re dealing with it in stages and will change our response as needed.”

Many of the passengers also entered Taiwan for a one-day trip when the boat anchored at the northern port of Keelung on Jan 31, according to Taiwan’s immigration authority, with local media saying they probably visited several popular tourist sites in Taipei.

The National Palace Museum said in a notice on its website that it had conducted “complete disinfection” in its exhibition halls on Wednesday.

Officials and experts in Tokyo are also worried the outbreak may have an impact on the 2020 Games starting in July.

Separately in Hong Kong a cruise ship with 3,600 passengers and crew was quarantined for a second day on Thursday pending testing after three positive cases onboard.

Authorities said 33 crew members on the World Dream had developed respiratory tract infection symptoms and three had been sent to a hospital for isolation and management after developing fevers.

All but one of the 33 tested negative for the disease, with the remaining test pending, the city’s health department said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died on Wednesday from the coronavirus outbreak, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total death toll to 563, the country’s health authority said on Thursday.