As the fast-moving coronavirus spreads across China and the world, more than 3,000 people are confronting the infection on an intimate level – locked aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, under quarantine in Japan. Some 135 passengers have been infected.
Affected persons have been transferred to city hospitals in Japan. The rest are confined aboard the ship until Feb. 19, when the quarantine is scheduled to end.
The voyage of the Diamond Princess
The first hint of the coronavirus aboard ship came Feb. 4, when the cruise line held the vessel in Yokohama, Japan, to check passengers for signs of infection.
Princess Cruises reported that a passenger from Hong Kong got on the ship in Yokohama, stayed aboard for five days, and disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25.
Six days later, on Feb. 1, the passenger tested positive for coronavirus in a Hong Kong hospital. The company canceled the next Diamond Princess cruise on Feb. 4, announced 10 cases of infections, and put the ship under quarantine. A Feb. 12 cruise has also been canceled.
Reports say at least 135 people have tested positive for the virus, mostly passengers, with at least 20 Americans among them. About 10 crew members have been infected as well.
About half of the passengers are from Japan. In addition to the Americans, Princess Cruises reported Feb. 9 that 45 people from Japan were infected, along several other cases from different nationalities.
The cruise ship has the largest concentration of cases – about 23% – of the respiratory virus outside mainland China.
Characteristics of the ship
The Diamond Princess has 2,666 passengers and a crew of 1,045. It’s 952 feet long and 205 feet high, with 18 decks. It entered service in March 2004 and was refurbished in February 2019. Tonnage is 115,875.
Passengers remain confined to their cabins, which vary in size from suite-like spaces to rooms the size of a single-car garage or smaller.
Meals are delivered three times a day and are dropped off, along with other items, at the door to reduce the risk of infection.
Those with interior rooms without windows or exterior access are allowed 90 minutes in the open air on deck, but they must wear masks and gloves and maintain at least three feet between themselves and other passengers.
Those aboard have internet access, satellite TV, video on demand and other distractions. Princess Cruises says it will refund fares and expenses for passengers.
SOURCE USA TODAY reporting; Associated Press; Princess Cruises; Aerial photo: Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies; USA TODAY research