On Friday, February 28, the passengers of luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess were finally allowed to disembark after a weeks-long quarantine.
On February 4, it was discovered that COVID-19, the novel coronavirus first documented in China in December of last year, had spread on the cruise ship Diamond Princess. The British cruise ship, which is operated by Princess Cruises, had traveled as far as Vietnam and Taiwan before a passenger who had recently disembarked tested positive for the virus.
An 80-year-old man who disembarked the cruise ship a week prior tested positive for the virus on February 1 in Hong Kong. The revelation led to the remaining 3,700 passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess being quarantined. The ship and its passengers remained in Yokohama, a Japanese port city near Tokyo, for over three weeks.
As of February 26, over 700 passengers had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The people who tested positive were allowed to leave the ship for treatment, but the other passengers were required to remain onboard and in isolation.
The only passengers who were allowed to leave early were United States citizens, who were evacuated on a chartered flight on February 15. 328 people were on the flight, 14 of whom had tested positive for the virus.
The quarantine efforts were criticized by Kentaro Iwata, a Kobe University infectious disease expert. He pointed out that areas potentially contaminated by the virus were not in any way separated from virus-free areas, no professional disease experts were in charge of infection prevention, and other concerns in a series of YouTube videos, which were later removed.
Five of the cruise ship’s passengers have died from the virus so far and over 500 crew members remain on board the ship in Yokohama.
The Diamond Princess is only one of several ships that were quarantined due to COVID-19. The Bahama’s World Dream, MS Westerdam out of the Netherlands, and another Princess Cruises liner called the Grand Princess have also experienced outbreaks.