A Japanese quarantine officer who caught coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship picked up the bug while going cabin-to-cabin delivering heath questionnaires, it has been revealed.
The officer, who has not been identified, was among 39 new cases of the deadly virus diagnosed on board the Princess – which is quarantined in the port of Yokohama – on Wednesday, bringing the total to 174.
Passengers have been confined to their rooms since quarantine began on February 3 but health officials are allowed to roam between cabins, raising fears that the officer could have spread the infection.
Another 39 people have tested positive for the coronavirus on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan as well as one quarantine official, bringing the total to 174
At least 24 Americans are among the infected. The boat is under a two week quarantine which will be lifted on February 19
Passengers look out from a deck of the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Tuesday
The Japanese Health Ministry, which is managing the lockdown, said the officer had followed protocol which included wearing a mask and gloves – but not a body suit.
Officials were also checking the officer’s family and contacts on the mainland for signs of the virus – which has sickened more than 45,000 worldwide.
It is not clear what will happen to the passengers who came into contact with the infected officer, and whether they will be allowed off the boat with everyone else.
A spokesman for Princess Cruises, which owns the Diamond Princess, said that as far as they were aware all passengers would be allowed to leave on schedule next week.
About 3,700 people are aboard the- ship, which usually has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670.
Kyodo news agency, citing the health ministry, said that of the 39 cases, 10 were crew, 10 were Japanese nationals and the others were from 11 countries including the United States and China.
Four were in serious condition, media said, quoting Health Minister Katsunobu Kato.
The ministry said tests are being conducted for others who are deemed to need them and it will announce the results later.
The UK-flagged Diamond Princess is managed by Princess Cruise Lines, one of the world’s largest cruise lines and a unit of Carnival Corp.
The government was considering allowing elderly and those with chronic illnesses to disembark before the February 19 target date for ending the quarantine, some media reported, but added it would take time to figure out where they could be sent.
One patient, British honeymooner Alan Steele, was taken to hospital last Friday but said today he had tested negative for the virus and could leave quarantine shortly.
Kyodo news agency, citing the health ministry, said that of the 39 cases, 10 were crew, 10 were Japanese nationals and the others were from 11 countries including the United States and China
There are more than 43,000 cases worldwide so far and more than 1,000 deaths as of Tuesday
As of last week, about 80% of the passengers were aged 60 or over, with 215 in their 80s and 11 in the 90s, the English-language Japan Times newspaper reported.
As of Monday the death toll for the novel coronavirus, temporarily dubbed 2019-nCoV, surpassed 1,000 on Monday, with at least 42,500 confirmed cases in 24 countries.
On Monday alone China reported 103 deaths in the Hubei province – the highest toll recorded in any one 24-hour period since the outbreak began in December. Wuhan, the focal point of the disease, is located within the Hubei province.