Coronavirus: Dozens more catch virus on quarantined cruise ship

Media captionSea urchins and Swiss rolls: Quarantine around the world

Another 41 people on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases on board to 61.

Some 3,700 people are on board the Diamond Princess, which is quarantined in Yokohama for at least two weeks.

The checks began after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who had been on the ship last month fell ill with the virus.

He boarded the luxury cruise liner in Yokohama on 20 January and disembarked in Hong Kong on 25 January.

A separate cruise ship – the World Dream – has been quarantined in Hong Kong after eight former passengers caught the virus. It has around 3,600 people on board, but none have tested positive so far.

A British-American owned liner, the Westerdam, has been turned away by Japan even though it has not reported any cases of the virus.

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The new cases on board the Diamond Princess bring Japan’s number of confirmed cases to 86, the second highest figure after China.

“Today they will be sent to hospitals in several prefectures, and we are now preparing for that,” Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said.

One of those tested positive and now moved off board is a 58-year old British man, who was on honeymoon with his 41-year old wife.

With the quarantine due to last until 19 February, there has also been concern over supplies of normal medicine to the ship.

One passenger has been waving a Japanese flag with the message “shortage of medicine”.

A Japanese TV crew on the shore responded with a banner asking: “What medicine?”

Image copyright

Image caption

A passenger with a sign saying “shortage of medicine” onboard the Dream Princess

Twenty passengers diagnosed earlier have already been taken to hospitals.

The 61 confirmed patients are from:

  • Japan: 28 people
  • US: 11
  • Australia, Canada: 7
  • China: 3
  • UK, New Zealand, Taiwan, Philippines, Argentina: 1

In total, the roughly 2,700 passengers and 1,000 crew come from 56 countries.

Around half the guests are from Japan, the tour company said, while the UK government said there were 78 British citizens on board.

The company said it was providing satellite TV, films, newspapers, room service, and free phone calls and internet to all guests.

What is life like on board?

David Abel, from the UK, is a passenger on the Diamond Princess and is providing regular updates via Facebook

  • “We are to monitor our temperatures on a regular basis, and if it’s increased above normal we are to contact the medical services onboard of the ship.”
  • “Passengers in the small inside cabins have no window, there is no daylight, and no fresh air… but the captain has announced those passengers will be allowed access to open deck for exercise and fresh air.”
  • “If we are permitted out on open deck, we have to wear a mask when we’re outside. We have to keep one metre apart from everyone else and are not allowed to congregate in groups.”
  • “All of the luxury of having a steward come to make the bed and put a chocolate on the pillow – those days are gone. We have to take care of the cleanliness and hygiene of our own room.”
  • “We’re going through all the clothes we put into our dirty wash bag and we’re just re-wearing them now. Our underwear we’re washing by hand – we don’t have anything other than hand soap.”
  • “The first day in isolation, the supply of food wasn’t good. Now it’s superb.”

Another passenger, Spencer Fehrenbacher, told the BBC that he was tested for the virus several days ago but had not been told the result. “I could get a knock on my door at any moment with the news,” he said. “It’s a very scary feeling.”

The other cruise ship under quarantine is the World Dream, currently in Hong Kong.

Eight passengers – who had been on board from 19 to 24 January – tested positive which led to the ship cancelling its trip to Taiwan and returning to Hong Kong.

All crew that worked in the cabins of the infected passengers have been isolated, with no new cases of the virus reported.

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The new coronavirus can cause severe acute respiratory infection, which in some cases can be fatal. Most people infected are likely to recover though.

The centre of the virus is in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and most cases have been in the city and the surrounding province of Hubei.

The virus has killed 636 people and infected 31,198 in mainland China, the country’s National Health Commission’s said.

It has spread overseas with confirmed infections in at least 25 nations.

So far, there have been only two deaths outside of mainland China – one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Due to the global spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency.

Media captionThe BBC’s online health editor on what we know about the virus

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