Cruise ship quarantined after coronavirus detection

Japan screens cruise ship guests for coronavirus on Diamond Princess. Credit: Daka TW/Twitter

Diamond Princess, a cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises, and nearly 4,000 of its passengers and crew, have been quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama on 4 February 2020, after a former passenger tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The virus surfaced in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, in December 2019, and has nearly spread worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the situation a global health emergency.

Princess Cruises is a unit of Carnival Corporation and Diamond Princess serves a route that calls at Osaka, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Hon Gai, Keelung, and Naha.

It was found that an 80-year-old Hong Kong man flew to Japan and boarded Diamond Princess in Yokohama on 20 January and disembarked in Hong Kong on 25 January.

Japan has 20 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 17 of these people have been in Wuhan, where the epidemic began.

Health Minister Katsunobu Katō said that the scope of virus screening and test criteria will be expanded after initial tests failed to detect the virus in some people who were later found to be infected.

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.

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises told SAS that the company is constantly monitoring the coronavirus situation.

She said, “Our medical experts are co-ordinating closely with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO to implement recommended screening, prevention, and control measures for our ships. This will include pre-boarding health reporting for all guests, temperature and questionnaire screening for persons from affected areas, and denial of boarding as necessary.

“Additionally, guests visiting our onboard medical centres for respiratory cases will be evaluated for the illness. Routine environmental disinfection on board will also be done in addition to our regular stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols.”

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.