Princess Cruises has confirmed a further 36 cases of coronavirus onboard Diamond Princess, taking the total number of people to have fallen ill with the respiratory infection to 174.
Diamond Princess is being held under quarantine in Yokohama off the coast of Japan; 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew were onboard when the ship set sail on 20 January for an eight-day cruise as part of a longer itinerary.
Two Britons onboard the ship have contracted the infection. Guests have been confined to their cabins for more than a week now after a passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong on 25 January, tested positive for the deadly virus several days later.
The vessel was first quarantined last week by Japanese health officials, and will now remain in quarantine until 19 February. Guests are being allowed limited outdoor time under strict supervision, while Princess has provided a range of new TV, on-demand and other entertainment services and facilities to occupy those stuck onboard.
On Tuesday (11 February), Princess confirmed in a statement the Japanese Ministry of Health had identified a further 39 new positive cases of coronavirus, now officially designated Covid-19, onboard the ship.
“We are following guidance from the Japanese Ministry of Health on plans for disembarkation protocols to provide medical care for these new cases," said Princess. "The Japanese Ministry of Health has been the lead public health authority defining the testing protocols for all guests and crew on Diamond Princess.
“Additional information will be shared as soon as it is made available to use by the Ministry of Health.”
Princess said questions on the quarantine timeline and any additional test results or protocols were a matter for health officials in Japan.
Earlier this week, Princess president Jan Swartz said in a video message the guests and crew of Diamond Princess were the focus of Princess’s “entire global organisation”, describing the outbreak of coronavirus an “unprecedented situation”.
Executive vice-president Rai Caluori issued a second video update during the early hours of Wednesday morning (12 February) setting out some of the challenges facing the line, and its guests and crew onboard Diamond Princess.
He said the quarantine protocols were a matter solely for the Japanese Ministry of Health, which continues to advise the quarantine will end on 19 February, “barring any unforeseen events”.
More than 2,000 items of prescription medicine have been delivered to guests and crew, assisted by seven pharmacists, as well as more than 200 hand sanitising stations.
Caluori said Princess had turned up the percentage of fresh air versus recycled air circulated to guest cabins, crew cabins and public spaces “to maximum”, and citing the principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Infections (CDC), added the CDC had “no current evidence” to suggest the virus can spread between cabins through the ship’s air handling system.
All guests will receive a full refund including all “reasonable” onboard charges, gratuities and travel expenses, and will receive 100% future cruise credit.
The updates come after the Covid-19 death toll in China passed 1,000 earlier this week, overtaking the total toll of the 2002/03 Sars epidemic.
More than 42,000 cases have been confirmed in China, although the number of new cases in China’s Hubei province where the infection is thought to have originated fell nearly 20% between Monday (10 February) and midnight on Tuesday (11 February) from 2,478 to 2,015, according to China’s health commission.