Surge in coronavirus infections on quarantined Diamond Princess

Wearing protective gear near the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan. Credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

More novel coronavirus infections have emerged from a cruise ship that has been quarantined at Yokohama, Japan.

On 7 February 2020, Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Katō said that test results were positive for another 41 people from Diamond Princess, adding to the 20 confirmed infections that emerged in the previous two days.

Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess arrived at Yokohama’s Daikoku Pier on 4 February, but was quarantined after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, tested positive for the virus.

The ship was ordered to be quarantined for two weeks as the coronavirus has an incubation period of up to 14 days. The test results have only intensified fears that the coronavirus has spread within the confines of the cruise ship.

Japanese authorities have tested 273 people on board Diamond Princess, which has more than 3,700 passengers and crew. The infected persons have been removed from the ship and taken to hospitals in various prefectures in Japan.

Originating in Wuhan, the coronavirus has infected more than 31,000 people in China and killed more than 600 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 been in Wuhan. There is also one case of local transmission.

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corporation, told SAS that the cruise line’s public health team is putting in additional procedures to account for the change in onboard operations.

The spokesperson said, “Our crew are trained in safety and public health standards. In addition, we’re implementing processes developed in co-ordination with public health officials to support the elevated requirements of this situation.

“The health and safety of our guests and crew remains our top priority. We continue to work closely with the Japan Ministry of Health on all protocols and procedures while ensuring the comfort of our guests.”

Meanwhile, one of Genting Cruise Lines’ ships, World Dream, has been quarantined in Hong Kong port since 5 February. The vessel was asked to leave Kaohsiung port early after it transpired that three former passengers caught the coronavirus.

In a press statement, Dream Cruises, a unit of Genting Cruise Lines which operates World Dream, said, “Dream Cruises would like to reiterate that it maintains the highest preventive hygiene and sanitation standards on board its fleet and is committed to safeguarding the health of all guests and crew.”