Princess Cruises has told SAS that the company will thoroughly clean and disinfect the COVID-19 stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship once the 1,000 or so crew members complete a 14-day quarantine.
The Diamond Princess quarantine officially ended on 19 February 2020, two weeks after the ship arrived in Yokohama. It was quarantined as a former passenger, a Hong Kong man, had tested positive for COVID-19.
By the time the quarantine ended, there were 621 infections among the more than 3,700 passengers and crew, and three of the passengers, all elderly persons with underlying health conditions, died.
However, the Japanese government has obliged the remaining 1,000 or so crew members to undergo a 14-day quarantine, as they had been working while the passengers were confined to their cabins, in order to keep the ship running. This caused concern that the crew members may have inadvertently spread the virus among what has become the biggest COVID-19 cluster outside China.
A spokesperson for Princess Cruises said that the Carnival Corporation unit will implement cleaning and disinfection processes in compliance with the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The spokesperson said, “Based on information provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, the expectation is that the ship will be fully sanitised by a cleaning company with an expertise in this area following guidance from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and WHO. The ship will then be taken into dry dock for a period before a return to service. Specifics about the cleaning and sanitization process will be shared once finalized and approved by all required public health authorities.
“We are also working with the Japanese Ministry of Health to finalise our plans to meet the necessary requirements to quarantine our crew who have yet to disembark or will not be disembarking with their country’s chartered aircraft.”
Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said that affected crew members will be given two months of paid leave to show appreciation for the trying times they experienced.
Princess Cruises hopes to get Diamond Princess ready for service by 29 April, in time for Japan’s Golden Week holiday that will be from 2 to 6 May.
Meanwhile, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said on 24 February that a COVID-19-stricken seafarer, a Wuhan native who worked on a cargo ship that called at Singapore, has recovered and returned to China.
The seafarer was diagnosed in Singapore in late January and the ship, which had to be quarantined off Singapore, has also left the port.