Seaborne Contagion: Japan Cruise Infections Spike, Hong Kong Ship Ends Quarantine, Westerdam Heads to Shore
As governments around the world scramble to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus over land and air, a new route of transmission has emerged —the sea.
A growing number of passenger ships, namely cruises carrying thousands of people, have been confirmed or are suspected of being sites of 2019-nCoV transmission. The virus has infected nearly 38,000 around the world and killed more than 810 as of Sunday.
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Feb. 10, 2020
A total of 136 people on board the cruise ship have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, U.S.-based operator Princess Cruises Inc. told Caixin.
Japan’s health ministry confirmed six additional cases Sunday, bringing the total confirmed cases onboard the Diamond Princess to 70. By Monday afternoon, this tally had jumped again by another 66.
This brings Japan’s total number of cases to 162 individuals.
According to the ministry, those with confirmed infections have been transported to medical facilities onshore, and screening for infections will continue. This contradicts previous remarks made by Princess Cruises that Japanese health officials were concluding their tests.
Princess Cruises said in a statement that despite the new cases, the ship’s quarantine is still slated to end on Feb. 19.
The Hong Kong government announced Sunday that its health department had finished screening the crew of the World Dream cruise. All samples tested negative for 2019-nCoV, and all individuals onboard were permitted to disembark and passengers could proceed to immigration.
Holland America Line, the U.S.-based operator of the Westerdam, said Monday that the ship, which has been turned away from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the U.S. territory of Guam due to a suspected coronavirus infection onboard, was granted permission to dock in Bangkok, Thailand.
The company said that it had no reason to believe there were any cases of the new coronavirus onboard.
Feb. 8, 2020
With 64 infections confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess as of Saturday, the cruise ship that has been docked off of Yokohama, Japan, since Jan. 3 accounts for more than two-thirds of Japan’s total number of cases.
This single cluster has made the island country by far the worst-hit by the virus, after China.
Diamond Princess, which carries 2,666 passengers, of whom about half are Japanese, was quarantined upon return from a 16-day multi-stop voyage in Asia, after it was discovered that a passenger that disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. A total of 428 passengers are from the U.S., CNN reported.
Princess Cruises Inc., the ship’s U.S.-based operator, told Caixin on Friday that screening for potential infections by Japanese health authorities should be completed soon, and that quarantine for those on the ship not infected by the pathogen is slated to end Feb. 19.
As of publication time, the company had confirmed the nationalities of 51 of the 64 infected passengers.
Authorities from Hong Kong and South China’s Guangdong province are still attempting to track down passengers on a Jan. 19 to Jan. 24 cruise aboard the World Dream, though the number of people sought has risen from 4,482 to “more than 5,000,” as of Thursday.
Of that group, the number of confirmed cases remained at eight, all individuals from the Chinese mainland, while Hong Kong health officials now consider 206 passengers to be “at a higher risk” of infection.
The World Dream, which now carries the same 1,800-member crew with a new set of more than 1,800 passengers, is now quarantined off Hong Kong.
As of Friday, authorities had tested 43 individuals, mostly crew members who had developed symptoms of respiratory tract infection. A total 33 results were negative for 2019-nCoV, while 10 are pending.
While Hong Kong health authorities said previously that all passengers currently aboard the World Dream were required to stay on the ship while they carry out “quarantine work,” passengers may be free to go when screenings are finished.
“We are not going to subject them to quarantine at the moment,” Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the city’s Centre for Health Protection, said Thursday at a press conference. “Now is already the thirteenth day since January 24, so hopefully they are all well.”
The Hong Kong government said Wednesday that 90% of the ship’s current passengers were from Hong Kong.
U.S.-based Holland America Line, the operator of Westerdam, denied Friday that the ship was under quarantine after it was barred from berthing in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the U.S. territory of Guam, according to media reports.
On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said that the ship, which came from Hong Kong, carried a passenger alleged to be infected by 2019-nCoV.
“In light of such a situation … (we) intend to deny the entry of foreign nationals onboard the Westerdam,” he said at a meeting at the country’s Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters.
Holland America said Friday that Westerdam was sailing on a “southwesterly course” off the coast of Taiwan in search of potential port locations in an effort to disembark passengers.
“We have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board,” the company said.
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