The first group of passengers who are 80 and older and tested negative for the new coronavirus have been allowed to move to lodgings on land Photo: AFP

First passengers leave quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama

By Hiroshi Hiyama and Natsuko Fukue

The first passengers began leaving a quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama on Friday to finish their isolation in government-designated lodging after testing negative for the new coronavirus.

The government has given passengers aged 80 or older in poor health or confined to windowless inner cabins on the Diamond Princess the chance to move from the ship to accommodation on land.

But only those who test negative for the virus that has so far infected more than 200 people on board the ship have the option to move.

The first of them departed the massive cruise ship on Friday afternoon, traveling in buses with blacked out windows.

At the wheel, one driver was dressed in a head-to-toe white protective suit, complete with goggles and mask.

A government official said 11 people had left, but declined to say whether more would depart Friday or offer further details.

The move comes a day after the number of infections diagnosed on the ship rose to 218.

Senior health ministry official Gaku Hashimoto boarded the ship Friday morning to announce that all passengers "who are considered to be high risk in general health" would now be tested for the virus.

"Those who test positive will be transferred to the hospital. Those who test negative will -- at the request of the individual -- disembark and be transferred to accommodation provided by the government," he said in a statement in English read out by the ship's captain in a public broadcast.

"We are aware that many people are worried and concerned about the situation. However, to improve the situation as much as possible, the government is making its best efforts," the statement said.

There were more than 3,700 people on the ship when it arrived off the Japanese coast last week, but those diagnosed with the virus have been taken off the boat, along with some people suffering other health conditions requiring medical attention.

Ten of those hospitalised are now in serious condition, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Friday.

Excluding the cases on the ship, and an infected quarantine officer, Japanese authorities have so far diagnosed 33 people with the newly named COVID-19.

The Diamond Princess has been quarantined off Japan since early February after it emerged a former passenger who got off the boat in Hong Kong had tested positive for the virus.

The quarantine is due to end on Feb 19 and those on the ship have been mostly confined to their cabins and asked to wear masks and keep their distance from other passengers during brief outings on open deck.

Crew on board have expressed concern that their conditions -- including shared cabins, bathrooms and workspaces -- put them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

On Friday afternoon, the crew distributed iPhones to passengers on board, with the captain saying the handsets had been sent by the Japanese government.

"We are distributing iPhones to all staterooms, loaded with an application... (that) will help you to get medical support. Full instructions will be distributed together with the phones," he said.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Where are they going? We have a right to know.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

There is lot of news everywhere from several sources so it is hard to follow :

Some elderly passengers on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, near Tokyo, were expected to disembark from the vessel later Friday. They will stay at a state facility in Saitama Prefecture.'s-hospital-tests-positive-for-coronavirus-gov't-to-send-5th-plane-to-Wuhan

NB : If need be, these people tested negative and will be quarantined so no need to stress. Relax, stress is no good for immunity system.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Thank god for that.

For me it's about all Asians being Chinese discriminating Chinese sociologically.

Believe, this horror of people confined to a ship watching them on tv watching themselves on your smart phone with access to free Internet as entertainment when we are busy trying to fix it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Okinawa has announced it's first positive infection today. 60 year female taxi driver that probably drove many of the tourists around when this ship called port before Yokohama and during the lunar new year. Incubation period is about to end so just wait and see and hope the medical system doesn't get overwhelmed.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Well at least now people are beginning to leave the shop.. Especially those are tested negative for the virus. This is definitely a very good sign of things to come.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If they are leaving and free to go then why do the bus drivers have overalls and masks on? Someone making a mistake here.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Yeah, well, when that ship stopped here in Okinawa on February 1st, and the passengers got off their, someone from that ship infected a 60's something female taxi driver with the virus, and she is now in the hospital.

It took almost exactly 2 weeks for her to get checked out, so between the time she was initially infected, and today, lord knows how many other people she may have infected while they were passengers in HER taxi!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@ Marsh Mallow

They are not free to go. They are going to quarantine area more suited than a cruise ship.

The staff is wearing a full suit in case their is false negative.

On that one, should I suggest government to always do lung imageri too since it seems to help reduce false negative.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

All the 79-year-olds on board must be wishing they were 80!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you are a Chinese Speaking Tourist here in Japan... I feel sorry for you. Even I want to stay clear from you at present.

If you are from one from those Cruise ships, being quarantined offship, then, after coming ashore, I hope that you receive better food than you had there, and receive better entertainment options - rather than being transferred from seemingly one prison to another, but please... don't venture outside of your designated zones for the benefit of the rest of us.

As for the rest of us.... Hit the Gym, get fitter stronger, if you can. Eat better foods, wear facemasks, etc, etc. And avoid unnecessary Socialising.....

Alternatively go to the Pub, drink heavily, dilute any effect the virus can have upon your blood stream, and should you die in the process, at least you will be happy ;) Be wary of fake news...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Mmw you most likely to catch the Wuhan flu from a Japanese than a Chinese

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Why is the media not reporting publicly about the case and severe ICU patient in Hokaido confirmed to have the COVD--19 (coronavirus). grrr.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why is the media not reporting publicly about the case and severe ICU patient in Hokaido confirmed to have the COVD--19 (coronavirus). grrr.

Really do you have to ask this question? If you have lived here in Japan for any length of time you will find out that issues like this are kept quiet, for as long as possible, or perhaps lied about.

Similar to what happened in Wuhan, can't openly admit that the virus is spreading here too!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Really do you have to ask this question? If you have lived here in Japan for any length of time you will find out that issues like this are kept quiet, for as long as possible, or perhaps lied about.

Yes this question must be continuously asked otherwise it will never be answered or looked towards. It doesn't matter whether one has lived here in Japan nor anywhere on the planet for that matter. Just as you have a right to your opinions, so do others. If it is kept quiet or lied about, then it is our fault for making is such. Tyranny and oppresion while alive does fail in the end if the people stand up to it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If I were infected on that ship I would sue the Japanese government for damages!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The Japanese government is acting responsibly, if a tad slowly. Immediately quarantining the ship was the right thing to do, but as soon as possible, facilities elsewhere should have been prepared. The ship appears to be acting more like a petri dish than a medical facility.

On the other hand, this is a new situation, that none of us is used to dealing with, so what seems like common sense now was not so obvious weeks ago.

I will never forget the stories my mother used to tell me about the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic, as she witnessed it in New York. People don't talk about it much anymore, but as much as 4% of the Earth's population of humans passed away from that disease, at that time. Government officials are right to heed the warnings of scientists to take this latest flu seriously.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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