Two Indian crew on board cruise ship off Japanese coast test positive for coronavirus

Two Indian crew on board cruise ship off Japanese coast test positive for coronavirus
A man wearing a mask stands guard at the port next to the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 12, 2020. Reuters

Two Indian crew on board a cruise ship off the Japanese coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Indian Embassy in Japan said on Wednesday as authorities confirmed that 174 people have been infected with the deadly disease.

The cruise ship Diamond Princess with 3,711 people on board arrived at the Japanese coast early last week and was quarantined after a passenger who de-boarded last month in Hong Kong was found to be the carrier of the novel virus on the ship.

A total of 138 Indians, including 132 crew and 6 passengers, were on board the ship.

"Due to the suspicion of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection, the ship has been quarantined by the Japanese authorities till February 19, 2020," the embassy said in a statement.

Two Indian crew on board cruise ship off Japanese coast test positive for coronavirus
Workers in protective gear load supplies into the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan. Reuters

"As of February 12, 2020, altogether 174 people have been tested positive for nCoV, including two Indian crew members," it said.

All the infected people have been taken to hospitals for adequate treatment, including further quarantine, in accordance with the Japanese health protocol, it said.

The Indian Embassy was in constant touch with the Japanese authorities to ensure the welfare of Indian nationals on board the ship as well as the possibility of their early disembarkation, in case they are not found to have tested positive for the virus, it said.

Japanese authorities have confirmed that they are following the designated health protocols, it said.

"The Embassy of India in Tokyo has reached out to the Indian nationals through emails and telephone calls and explained to them about the health and safety regulations of Japanese authorities and have requested for cooperation," the statement said.

"None of the Indian nationals have complained of discriminatory treatment meted out to them," it said, adding that the mission has been in constant touch with the ship management company- Princess Cruises (for the crew members) and the employer of six passengers to tie up their travel back to India.

Giving details, it said that those who have not tested positive, irrespective of their nationality, have not been allowed to disembark except the critically ill passengers and crew members who have been allowed to be taken to hospitals for further treatment and quarantine.

Media reports had earlier showed a video of Indian crew members pleading to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the UN to segregate the Indians on board the ship on an urgent basis.

One of the crew members in the video, identified as Binay Kumar Sarkar, said, "please somehow save us as soon as possible. What's the point if something happens (to us)...I want to request the government of India and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi-ji, please segregate us and bring us back home safely."

Those on the ship have been asked to wear masks and allowed limited access to the open decks as they are advised to remain in the cabins most of the times to contain the spread of the virus, according to media reports.

Passengers to get refund

Meanwhile, the operator of the ship on Monday vowed to refund all 2,666 passengers due to the on board outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Carnival Japan Inc., the Japanese branch of Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., which operates the ship, said refunds will be offered via travel agencies through which the passengers made their bookings.

The company will additionally cover all costs incurred by those quarantined aboard the ship since last Tuesday, when passengers were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama.

The death toll in China's novel coronavirus outbreak rose up to 1,113 with 97 new fatalities reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases of infection jumped to 44,653, health officials said on Wednesday.

The coronavirus outbreak originated in central China's Hubei province in December last year.

The virus was officially named "COVID-19" by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday.

Several countries have banned arrivals from China while major airlines have suspended flights to the country.

No new positive cases in India

India has not reported any new positive cases though hundreds of Indians were evacuated from the virus-hit Wuhan in China. However, many still remain in home isolation as various state governments, including Kerala, continue alert against the virus.

India's all three positive coronavirus cases - reported from Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kasaragod districts - are Keralite students, two of them medicos, of a university at Wuhan, the epicentre of the nCoV.

Earlier this week, India's first novel coronavirus patient had tested negative for the infection in a test at the National Institute of Virology's local centre in Kerala.

An official announcement on the 'recovery' of the patient, a woman medical student from Thrissur, would be made only after her blood test result from NIV at Pune confirms the findings of the Alappuzha centre, the state health department officials had said on Monday.

She had tested positive for the virus on her return from Wuhan in China recently and been undergoing treatment in the isolation ward of a government medical college hospital.

According to the state health department, a total of 31 people with symptoms of the coronavirus are in isolation wards across various hospitals in the state as of now.

Besides the woman, two other Keralite students from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus that has claimed over 1,100 lives in China, had tested positive in Alappuzha and Kasaragod districts.

The 'state calamity' alert, declared by the government on February 3 after the third student tested positive for the virus, was withdrawn on Friday with no fresh cases of the infection being detected.

(With PTI inputs)

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