ST. GEORGE — A 14-day cruise for a St. George couple traveling on the Diamond Princess cruise line has become a 30-day nightmare after they were quarantined in Japan when 10 passengers and one crew member were diagnosed with the coronavirus.
According to a letter given to passengers of the ship and forwarded to St. George News from St. George resident Karey Maniscalco, the ship was quarantined after Hong Kong public health authorities notified Princess Cruises that an elderly Hong Kong resident who was a passenger on the ship tested positive for the virus on Saturday – six days after leaving the vessel.
Health officials said the passenger showed no symptoms and cleared all thermal screenings after disembarking in Hong Kong. Moreover, the individual accompanying the passenger was symptom-free, according to the letter.
In a message to St. George News sent early Wednesday morning, Maniscalco said the ship, carrying roughly 2,600 passengers and more than 1000 crew members, arrived Tuesday in Yokohamam, but Japanese authorities did not allow anyone off.
Maniscalco and her husband were on a 14-day cruise when the trouble began.
The couple were scheduled to return Monday, but just days before in Okinawa was “the first time we had experienced any trouble getting off the ship,” she said, adding that “the ship never informed us at that time that there had been a passenger with the coronovirus or that we had been under quarantine there too.”
On Monday, ship officials informed the passengers they would increase the vessel’s speed to get to Yokohamam by nightfall. Hours later the passengers learned that Japanese health officials would need to board the vessel for an inspection after the Hong Kong passenger tested positive for the virus.
The following day, medical personnel began making the rounds to assess the passengers.
“At 3 am they came to our room took our temperatures and had us fill out questionnaire and said we were good,” Maniscalco said. “They were not finished in the morning with the assessment. … Then at 6 am this morning the captain came over the intercom and told us the Japanese government told us not to leave our rooms.”
Three hours later the couple learned there were 10 passengers that tested positive for the virus and that they would be quarantined for the next two weeks.
She said she and her husband are very upset, adding that “no one plans to leave work an additional two weeks and certainly not to spend it locked in a 100 square foot room.”
The ship’s crew is delivering food and bottled water to the rooms three times a day, she said, and they have been told that any needed medications would be provided.
Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told the Bankok Post that the number of confirmed cases could rise as screenings of some of the 3,700 quarantined passengers and crew continue.
Those passengers are being taken off the ship and will be taken to the hospital. Kato also told the Bankok Post the rest of the passengers and crew on board the ship will be required to stay on the vessel for 14 days, citing that the new virus has an incubation period of up to two weeks.
According to Diamond Princess, the list of those infected includes two guests from Australia, three Japanese guests, three guests from Hong Kong and one guest from the U.S., in addition to one Filipino crew member.
Princess Cruises also confirmed there are 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew currently on board. The cruise line has also cancelled the next voyage to help facilitate the health screening and records review process.
In addition to Maniscalco and her husband, KUTV is reporting that St. George residents Jerri Larson Jorgensen and her husband are on the same ship. St. George News has attempted to reach Jorgensen but has not heard back as of publication of this article.
Coronavirus – situation summary
The Centers for Disease Control is closely monitoring the outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, by Chinese authorities, which has resulted in thousands of confirmed cases throughout the Asian country, including cases outside Wuhan City. Additional cases have been identified in a growing number of other international locations, including the United States.
Cruise ships carry large numbers of people that are in closed and semi-closed settings which can augment the spread of an illness or virus from person to person very quickly through “droplet spread,” the CDC says, adding that outbreaks of influenza and other respiratory viral diseases can occur at any time of the year among cruise ship passengers.
According to The Associated Press, the latest mainland China figures showed an increase of 65 deaths from the previous day, all the new deaths from Wuhan. The number of new cases increased to 24,324, a rise of 3,887 from the previous day. Outside mainland China, at least 220 cases have been confirmed, including two fatalities, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.
The infections on the cruise ship raised Japan’s total to 33 cases. South Korea and Thailand reported recent cases among people who had not been to China, raising concerns about how easily the virus might be spreading in other places.
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