February 20 ------ The quarantine of the cruise ship Diamond Princess has officially ended and passengers have started to disembark, Princess Cruises, the owner of the cruise vessel, which has been docked in Yokohama, Japan for two weeks amid coronavirus outbreak, said. As reported earlier, some 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on board the cruise ship were told to stay in their cabins since February 5 in order to prevent the spread of the fatal virus. About half of these people are of Japanese nationality. The company added that embassies of Canada, Australia, and Hong Kong are coordinating the collection and transport of their respective citizens, both guests and crew, via charter flights today.
The evacuated passengers will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine in their respective countries before being allowed to travel to their final destinations, but solely if they test negative to COVID-19. “We expect to receive confirmation of the exact numbers of those traveling on these charter flights after the flights have departed,” the company statement reads. According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, the disembarkation process for those individuals who are not taking government repatriation flights will start today. The ministry informed in its latest update that out of 2,404 people tested for coronavirus, 542 people were confirmed to have been infected. All individuals testing positive are being disembarked and admitted for medical care in infectious disease hospitals in the Yokohama area. The disembarkation is expected to last several days, as all passengers need to be tested, and the testing and results require two to three days to complete. A certificate that indicates a negative COVID-19 test result is expected to be granted by Japanese health authorities to exit the ship.
Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president is back in Japan with other members of her team supporting the company’s response operations and preparing for the disembarkation of the passengers. “Working in coordination with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Princess Cruises will be monitoring the progress of guests who have contracted COVID-19 and will be offering travel assistance to these individuals upon their recovery (and delivery of a heath certificate by Japanese health authorities),” the company said. “Because of the extraordinary circumstances onboard Diamond Princess, the company is refunding the full cruise fare for all guests including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities and other items. In addition, guests are not being charged for any onboard incidental charges during the additional time onboard. Princess Cruises will also provide guests with a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for the voyage.”
The quarantine has been exposed to harsh criticism over the recent week as it is believed it had failed to curb the spread of the virus on board the cruise ship. Japan has recorded 65 coronavirus infections, based on the data from the World Health Organization 8WHO), and one fatality. Overall, the number of infected people across the globe has reached 73,332, WHO’s data from February 18th shows, out of which 72, 528 confirmed cases are from China. A total of 1,870 people died in China as a consequence of the infection.