World on Alert as Passengers from Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ships Fly Home
More than 3,000 travellers on two coronavirus-stricken Carnival cruise ships are returning home, fanning out to more than 40 countries and fuelling fears of further contagion from the deadly virus.
The US on Monday began evacuating its citizens from the Diamond Princess off Yokohama, Japan, where 70 new cases of the virus were confirmed over the weekend.
Canada, Hong Kong and other countries also plan similar evacuations of hundreds. On Saturday, an 83-year-old American woman tested positive in Malaysia, a day after she and more than 2,200 others were cleared to leave the cruise ship Westerdam in Cambodia. The ship arrived there after being turned away by five other ports.
The startling number of cases on the Diamond Princess, which accounts for the biggest cluster of coronavirus infections outside China, and the newly detected case from the Westerdam raise questions about the effectiveness of containing the virus on cruise ships. Those concerns have prompted a growing number of Asian countries to block the luxury liners from their ports, threatening earnings of companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruises.
The Westerdam spent two weeks in limbo before Cambodia permitted the ship to berth on Feb. 13. Passengers were allowed to leave the next day without a quarantine, and the American woman then travelled to Kuala Lumpur to seek a flight back to the US.Malaysia has since said it won’t allow any more travellers from the Westerdam to transit through the country, causing the cancellation of three charter flights to shuttle passengers out of Cambodia.
Health experts are raising the alarm about the Westerdam passengers after their release without a quarantine order at a time when the death toll from the disease has topped 1,700 globally. Most countries planning evacuations of those on the Diamond Princess in Japan have also announced plans for quarantines upon return.
The incubation guideline for coronavirus is two weeks – nearly the entire time the ship was on the sea after departing Hong Kong Feb. 1 and becoming a floating pariah. Because the ship was at sea for the required 14-day quarantine, passengers are free to travel after they leave the ship, a US State Department spokesperson said.
Holland America Line – owned by Miami-based cruising giant Carnival – has maintained there was no known case of the disease during the voyage. Knowing when the American woman was infected and by whom is key to determine the risk that other passengers may come down with the virus.
The US doesn’t have “sufficient evidence” to determine when she may have been exposed or where, said the State Department spokesperson.
The infected woman was cleared to travel from Cambodia after filling out a health questionnaire and undergoing temperature checks. After she and 144 other Westerdam passengers arrived in Malaysia to transit to other flights, the woman had a fever, was coughing and had difficulty breathing. Two tests confirmed the diagnosis, according to the health ministry. Her 85-year-old husband tested negative as did six other passengers who were quarantined.
A strict quarantine on the Diamond Princess, operated by Princess Cruises also owned by Carnival, hasn’t abated infections, which have surged on the ship, while remaining contained in Japan. The 355 cases aboard compare with 59 for all of Japan, a country with a population of more than 125 million.
US passengers leaving the ship will be subject to an additional 14-day quarantine. Those displaying symptoms will remain in Japan for quarantine, while anyone not boarding the flights will have to wait until March 4 at the earliest to return.
More than 600 Americans on the Westerdam are making their way home, the biggest group by nationality. About 233 guests and 747 crew remain on the ship in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, out of 2,257 who were on the voyage, according to a Holland America Line statement.
Neha writes articles on sectors including medicine, food, materials, and science & technology. A qualified statistician, she has the ability to observe and analyze the trends in global markets and write compelling articles that help CXOs in decision making. She is a bookworm and loves to read fiction, lifestyle, science and technology. Neha comes with 6 years of experience in content writing and editing that involves blog writing, preparation of study materials and OERs.