Crewmen among new coronavirus cases on Diamond Princess

Diamond Princess vessel at sea. Credit: Carnival Corporation/Alpsdake

Three Indonesian crew members are among the 99 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases that emerged from quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess on 17 February 2020, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said.

With just one more day to go before the two-week quarantine of the Princess Cruises vessel ends, a total of 455 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, forming the largest cluster of the respiratory disease outside mainland China where the bug first appeared.

“According to my last communication with the Japanese ambassador in Jakarta, we have obtained information that three of the 78 Indonesian crew members aboard the cruise ship were declared confirmed [for COVID-19],” Retno said at a press briefing in Jakarta.

She added that two of the people found to have the illness had been taken to a hospital in Chiba, Japan. The third was waiting to be taken to the hospital as of noon local time on 18 February.

The Indonesian embassy in Tokyo has sent a representative to ensure that the Indonesian crew members are properly treated, said Retno. “We have also contacted the families of the three Indonesian crew members,” she added.

David and Sally Abel, the British couple who have been releasing video diaries of their time under quarantine, have also become infected. David Abel wrote in a Facebook post, “There is going to be a time of quiet. We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all xxx.”

Diamond Princess has been quarantined at the Yokohama port since 4 February after a former passenger, a Hong Kong man, tested positive for the coronavirus.

While some 400 US passengers were evacuated by the US government on 17 February, all remaining passengers aboard Diamond Princess who have tested negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to start disembarking on 19 February, Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Katō said, with the ministry having finished taking test samples from all passengers.

Those who tested negative will be allowed to leave freely between 19 and 21 February, while those who tested positive will be hospitalised. The same measures will apply to crew members.

Out of an abundance of caution, Holland America Line has decided to cancel the 29 February cruise of Westerdam after one of its passengers tested positive for COVID-19 after disembarking on 13 February. The ship was turned away by five other ports after picking up passengers in Hong Kong, where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19. Westerdam was finally allowed to dock at Sihanoukville, Cambodia, after being turned away by Thailand’s Laem Chabang port, and was due to depart Yokohama for a 14-day round-trip cruise, visiting mostly Japanese ports.

Holland America Line said in a statement to SAS, “Holland America Line has been closely monitoring the very fluid and evolving situation with respect to the new COVID-19 that originated in mainland China. The difficult decision to cancel this cruise comes after carefully considering the highly dynamic and unpredictable changes seen the past couple of weeks in travel restrictions and port operations that could affect the cruise.”

All guests will receive a full refund. Each guest will also receive a 50% future cruise credit and reimbursement of cancellation fees.

Holland America Line continued, “While this decision will be disappointing for our guests, we feel they will understand the commitment to looking after the safety and wellbeing of our guests, crew, and the places we visit.”

COVID-19 first surfaced in Wuhan, mainland China, in December 2019, and began spreading nationwide. By the time the Chinese government locked down Wuhan and other cities in Hubei Province on 23 February 2020, the infections had spread across Asia, before moving to parts of Australia, Egypt, Europe, North America, and Russia.

More than 70,000 infections and nearly 1,900 deaths have been reported, exceeding that of the SARS outbreak in 2003. The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global health emergency.