Knock-on effect of Diamond Princess Covid-19 cluster continues

Evacuation of the Princess Cruise Line vessel Diamond Princess (IMO 9228198), which had been isolated off Yokohama, Japan, since February 3rd, has been continuing, but the lack of precautions taken by Japan when it came to Japanese passengers has caused concern and led to an apology at the weekend by Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato.

All of the passengers who have been evacuated to other countries e.g., Hong Kong, Australia and the UK – are facing a further two weeks’ quarantine. By comparison, Japan permitted the asymptomatic passengers leaving the ship for their homes in Japan to travel home by taxi or bus.

As many feared, this proved to be a mistake. A Japanese woman in her 60s who was allowed to leave a the Diamond Princess has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. It later transpired that she had not been tested on the vessel since before February 5th.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference in Tokyo on Saturday February 22nd that 23 people who had disembarked on Wednesday and Thursday had not undergone tests since before February 5th and the ministry was trying to reach them for retesting. “We deeply apologize for the situation caused by our oversight,” Kato said. “We will take all necessary measures, like double checks, to prevent a recurrence”, he said, although he did not mention the retesting of people tested on the boat since February 5th. Many fear that the virus continued to spread on the ship after that date.

Meanwhile an International Transport Workers’ Federation report revealed that 70 of the crew on board the Diamond Princess had been infected with Covid-19. All the remaining crew, predominately Filipino and Indonesian, were scheduled to begin repatriation over the coming days.

Minimum manning of the ship will be guaranteed with a voluntary crew.

Francesco di Fiore, ITF inspectorate co-ordinator Italy, said that “a new master is already in Yokohama waiting in the hotel for instructions”. He added that “it was a mistake to insist on keeping all the crew on board when it was only necessary to have a safe manning group on board”.

2004-built, UK-flagged, 115,906 gt Diamond Princess is owned by Fairline Shipping Intl Corp care of manager Princess Cruise Lines Ltd of Valencia, California, USA. It is entered with UK Club and with Steamship Mutual.