Passengers face two weeks on virus-hit cruise ship off Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) - Around 3,700 people are facing at least two weeks locked away on a cruise liner anchored off Japan after health officials confirmed on Wednesday that 10 people on the ship had tested positive for coronavirus and more cases were possible.

While the infected patients were transferred by Japan's coastguard to hospitals on the mainland, the rest of the passengers and crew on board the Carnival Corp CCL.N ship were placed in quarantine and given health screenings. The 10 cases were among 31 results received so far from 273 people tested.

Passengers on Carnival’s Diamond Princess, which had arrived in Yokohama on Monday after a 14-day round trip, will now spend another two weeks on the ship off Yokohama port near Tokyo.

They took to social media to detail their predicament, posting photos of officials in masks and gowns conducting health checks, room service meals and empty corridors and decks.

British passenger David Abel said passengers were confined to their cabins on Wednesday morning, with staff delivering food room-by-room.

“The challenging situation for me is that I’m an insulin dependent diabetic,” Abel said in a video taken in his cabin and posted to his Facebook page, adding that regular and timed food intake was a key part of managing his condition.

“We don’t have a choice in what we can eat, the announcement recently was that they’re starting on the bottom deck and working their way up - I’m on the ninth deck.”

A 43-year-old Hong Kong resident on the ship with six family members said they had been given coffee and water, but no food, by lunchtime on Wednesday. They were hungry but had snacks of their own, he said.

“I am not looking forward to the range of emotions in the next two weeks,” he told Reuters from his family’s windowless room, declining to be named. “Will deal as they come.”

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Another passenger, using the handle @daxa_tw, tweeted that he was “hearing from many sides that people are troubled and uneasy”.

Separately, public broadcaster NHK said an additional two people had tested positive in Japan. One was a man in his 40s who was visiting Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, from China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.

The other was a man in his 20s who lives in Kyoto. He had not been to China but had contacts with Chinese tourists as he worked in hospitality industry, NHK said. That brought the total number of people infected in Japan to 35.


Carnival’s Princess Cruises said quarantined passengers would get free internet and telephone services and the crew was working to keep them comfortable.

The ship was caught up in the global coronavirus epidemic after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man tested positive for the virus after disembarking in Hong Kong on Jan. 25. The man had joined a shore excursion in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, on Jan. 22, local media reported.

He was believed to have been in close contact with 36 passengers, Kyodo news reported, citing Japan’s health ministry. Two of those people are among the 10 who have already tested positive, Kyodo said.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said officials would continue to monitor the remaining passengers and crew for the potential development of symptoms.

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None of the 10 infected people - three each from Japan and Hong Kong, two Australians, one American and one Filipino crew member - had severe symptoms, NHK reported.


Carnival said quarantined passengers would get a full refund and a future cruise credit.

The ship would go out to sea to perform “normal marine operations”, it added, including the production of fresh water, before receiving food and other supplies from Yokohama.

Not all passengers were overly concerned about their situation. American Ashley Rhodes-Courter posted a text message exchange on Instagram with her parents, Gay and Phil Courter, who are on board the ship.

“The food is great, the staff is in good spirits and we’re all in the same boat,” the couple said. “Plus, they have not run out of some great Pinot noir.”

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Chris Gallagher, Linda Sieg, Ju-min Park, Ritsuko Ando, David Dolan, Elaine Lies and Junko Fujita; Editing by Jane Wardell, Gerry Doyle, Philippa Fletcher and Alex Richardson