Passengers upset with Japan

Source:Reuters Published: 2020/2/19 21:13:41

Ship’s quarantine called ineffective; infections mount

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Hundreds of people began ­disembarking a cruise ship quarantined in Japan on Wednesday as criticism mounted of Japan's handling of the sea-borne outbreak where the new coronavirus appears to have run rife and infected more than 620 people.

Hundreds of people disembarked from the ­British-flagged Diamond ­Princess cruise liner docked at Yokohama near ­Tokyo, ending an ordeal that began when the ship was ­quarantined on February 3 ­after a former passenger was ­diagnosed with the virus in Hong Kong.

An additional 79 cases of coronavirus have been discovered aboard the ship, Japan's Health Ministry said Wednesday, bringing the total to 621.

The outbreak on the liner, owned by Carnival Corp, resulted in the biggest concentration of new coronavirus infections outside China despite more than two weeks of quarantine for its approximately 3,700 passengers and crew on board.

As questions swirled over how the virus spread so readily on the ship, Japan's state broadcaster NHK cited Health Minister Katsunobu Kato as defending Japan's efforts.

"Unfortunately, cases of infection have emerged, but we have to the extent possible taken appropriate steps to prevent serious cases, including sending infected people to hospital," Kato said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Japan's efforts might have slowed down the virus, but were not enough.

Japan has repeatedly said its response to the outbreak on the ship has been appropriate.

The US, Australia, and other countries, are making their citizens spend 14 days in quarantine upon their return.

With Japan just months away from hosting the 2020 Olympics, critics say the government's response has seemed more concerned with managing public perception than the outbreak.

From the start, experts raised questions about quarantine on the ship. Passengers weren't confined to their rooms until February 5. 

The day before, as officials screened them, onboard events continued, including dances, quiz games and an exercise class, one passenger said.

Only passengers who test negative and do not show symptoms are being allowed to leave the ship. 

Those who have tested negative but were in cabins with infected people would remain on board for additional quarantine, Japanese officials said.

Separately, South Korea reported 20 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, including 14 people involved in a surprise outbreak traced to several church services in the central city of Daegu.

Though South Korean media reports suggested the coronavirus outbreak had spread into North Korea, a World Health Organization official said Wednesday that there are no indications of cases in North Korea.


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