Vacation becomes prison as Hong Kong and Japan quarantine thousands of cruise ship passengers

February 5, 2020, 4:52 AM UTC

Luxury Asian vacations turned into a form of confinement for thousands of cruise passengers when authorities in Hong Kong and Japan said they would quarantine those aboard for up to two weeks after finding coronavirus infections aboard.

The developments will come as a blow to Princess Cruises, the operator of a vessel that is being quarantined off Yokohama, and to Dream Cruise, which manages the ship being held off Hong Kong.

Ten people on the Diamond Princess, which has about 3,700 crew and passengers aboard, have tested positive for the new coronavirus and been taken to hospital, Japan’s Health Ministry said. The ship had been moored off Yokohama and moved further out to sea Wednesday, tracking data showed.

A total of 273 people on the Diamond Princess are to be tested. The 10 positive tests were found among 31 tests whose results have already come through, the Japanese ministry said. All passengers and crew will be required to stay aboard apart from those who are hospitalized, and passengers will be asked to stay in their rooms.

“Checking the health of the passengers and crew is our priority, while we will also do all possible to prevent any spread of the infection,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament. “The remaining passengers and crew will not be allowed to come ashore for the time being.”

A similar number of people are under quarantine aboard the World Dream after three people infected with coronavirus were found to have been passengers, Hong Kong authorities said. The novel coronavirus first emerged in China’s Hubei province weeks ago, and more than 20,600 cases have now been reported.

male Twitter user in his 30s, who says he is a passenger on the Diamond Princess, has been posting photos and videos purported to be from the inside that include an image of health authorities in protective gear walking gold-carpeted hallways.

No Zumba

“It’s so ironic that the schedule is packed with events until the evening,” he said in a tweet Tuesday night, posting a photo of what would have been the schedule for the next day. A Zumba dance-exercise class was scheduled for 9:30 a.m., along with Japanese language class at 1:45 p.m., bingo at 4:00 p.m., and ballroom dancing at 8:45 p.m.

However, passengers were told to wait in their rooms Wednesday morning, he said in a direct message to Bloomberg, asking to remain anonymous. Breakfast was served to each room by the staff wearing masks, he tweeted.

Checks were conducted on the Diamond Princess after a passenger from Hong Kong who had been on the ship last month tested positive for the virus.

About half the passengers aboard the Diamond Princess are Japanese and those infected include two passengers from Australia, three from Japan, three from Hong Kong, one from the U.S. and a crew member from the Philippines, the ship’s operator said.

The infections aboard the ships come as 23 people were, separately, already confirmed to have contracted the disease in Japan.

Princess Cruises, part of Carnival Corp., said the Diamond Princess would go out to sea before docking at Yokohama to take on provisions. Two cruises that had been scheduled to depart the Japanese city Feb. 4 and 12 have been canceled, the company said.

“Princess Cruises will continue to fully cooperate with and follow the instructions of global medical authorities and the Japanese government,” the company said in a statement.

Editor’s note: This story and its headline were updated on Feb. 5 at 5 a.m. ET.

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