Japan’s Health Ministry said on 5 February 2020 that at least 10 people on a quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for the novel coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The ship, Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess, had been quarantined off Yokohama port after arriving on 4 February, after it transpired that an 80-year-old man from Hong Kong tested positive for the virus.
Diamond Princess has more than 3,700 passengers and crew on board and health minister Katsunobu Katō told journalists that shortly after the ship was quarantined, blood specimens were taken from 200 people for testing.
Katō said that the 10 people who tested positive for the coronavirus were asked to disembark and, with the Japan Coast Guard’s assistance, were sent to local hospitals for treatment.
Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had ordered officials not to let any passengers and crew from Diamond Princess to disembark, as the coronavirus has an incubation period of up to 14 days.
Originating in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, the coronavirus has infected more than 24,000 people in China and killed nearly 500 people. The coronavirus has also surfaced across Asia, parts of Europe, Australia, as well as North America.
On 1 February, Japan began refusing entry to foreigners who have been in Hubei province in the past 14 days, as well as Chinese nationals with passports issued in Hubei province.
Japan is widening the scope of its screening for the virus, and test criteria after initial tests failed to detect the virus in some people who were later found to be infected.
Prior to this, there were 20 confirmed coronavirus infections in Japan, with 17 of the infected people having visited Wuhan. There is also one case of local transmission.
On 31 January, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its 60 cruise line members imposed a ban on passengers who have been to China in the past two weeks from boarding their cruise ships in light of the global coronavirus outbreak.
“CLIA members have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, whether guest or crew, who has travelled from or through mainland China within the previous 14 days,” the US-based organisation said in a statement.
“CLIA and its member lines maintain close contact with health professionals and regulators around the world, including the WHO, and are continually assessing and modifying policies and procedures as developments emerge.”
CLIA’s membership includes cruise majors Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and MSC Cruises, which together hold almost 85% of market share.