Americans trapped aboard a quarantined cruise ship in Japan are pleading for help from President Donald Trump as they face up to a month under coronavirus lockdown in deteriorating conditions.
The Diamond Princess, operated by Princess Cruises, was quarantined on Monday upon arriving at Yokohama, after a single man disembarked in Hong Kong before showing any symptoms, but was later diagnosed with the virus.
Since Wednesday, the number of passengers confirmed infected has jumped to 61, including 11 Americans, as the remaining 3,700 passengers huddle in their quarters and wait to see if symptoms of the deadly virus appear.
‘We are kind of worried because we’ve still got two weeks on here assuming that works out in our favor and we still have to get onto American soil,’ passenger Gaetano Cerullo explained to Fox News over Skype from their cabin on board. ‘And, if Donald Trump could help us in any way…’
‘We need help. We are in a desperate, desperate state,’ his wife Milena Basso pleaded. ‘We’re American citizens and we just want to get home.’
Basso and Cerullo said that food and water have grown scarce, and that information from authorities has been limited as they wait out the quarantine in their cabin.
‘Once the quarantine happened, what we could eat basically went downhill,’ said Cerullo.
‘The first day when we asked for two bottles of water it took four hours and the next day we got two cups,’ he added.
The couple, who are on their honeymoon cruise, are among the estimated 400 Americans aboard the Diamond Princess, which is one of two cruise ships that Japan is holding under quarantine over coronavirus fears.
‘It’s not going to be a luxury cruise; it’s going to be like a floating prison,’ wrote passenger David Abel on Facebook from the ship.
‘I think for many passengers, it’s going to be absolute boredom,’ Abel said in a separate interview. He considers himself lucky that he has a cabin with a balcony. ‘The people I feel really sorry for are those with inside cabins who’ve got no natural light, no fresh air. It’s going to be pretty grim for them for two weeks.’
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that Japan will deny entry of foreign passengers on another cruise ship heading to Japan – Holland America’s cruise ship Westerdam, on its way to Okinawa from Hong Kong – because of suspected coronavirus patients found on the ship.
The new immigration policy takes effect Friday to ensure border control to prevent the disease from entering and spreading further into Japan, Abe said.
As Japanese officials loaded the Diamond Princess with supplies to make the quarantine as bearable as possible, passengers took to social media to highlight kindnesses by the crew and to complain about dwindling medicine, the quality of the food and the inability to exercise or even leave their cabins.
One female passenger on the Diamond Princess has voiced the fear that she will ‘leave in a box’.
The passenger from Florida relayed her message to a CNN reporter late Thursday from on board the Diamond Princess, which is being held in a two-week lockdown off the coast of Japan.
‘We are scared… I don’t want to leave this ship in a box,’ she said.
Among the other Americans quarantined aboard the ship are Rebecca Frasure and her husband. She was shocked when a doctor on board the ship knocked on her door to inform her that her throat swab had tested positive for the virus, as she had no symptoms other than a cough.
In a Skype interview with CNN, Rebecca said: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen an hour from now, tomorrow. For all we know, we could stay quarantined on the ship for a month.’
Another American couple on the Diamond Princess, novelist Gay Courter and her husband Philip, are in their 70s. While they are among the passengers that have access to a balcony, they have expressed concerns they are stuck in an unsafe environment with people breathing air which is circulated throughout the whole ship.
Courter said: ‘We’re in a contaminated prison, possibly…
‘This is not a safe environment and we don’t think anybody, let alone the Japanese government, wants to be responsible for making a bad decision about quarantining us in an unsafe place.’
Courter’s husband Philip posted a picture of the view from their balcony showing ambulances being loaded with passengers and crew sick with the coronavirus.
‘We go to sea tomorrow to produce needed water and hope that the quarantine is successful in preventing more infections,’ he said.
‘We likely won’t hear news about that until tomorrow night. If there are no infections, we may have an end to the confinement on the 19th. Sure hope the microscopic virus organisms aren’t circulating in the ship’s air system.’
The number of infected people on board the ship tripled from 20 to 61 last night after another 41 people tested positive for the deadly virus.
There are eight Americans among the 41 newly diagnosed passengers, along with 21 Japanese nationals, five Canadians, five Australians, a Briton and an Argentine.
The eight new US cases bring the number of infected Americans aboard the ship to 11.
The huge leap in virus cases has added to concerns among the ship’s 2,600 passengers that they are being kept in the dark about the crisis, with the quarantine expected to continue until February 19.
The new cases, all passengers who are in their 20s to 80s, will be taken to medical facilities in Tokyo and nearby Saitama Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures as well as Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan.
At least one person is reported in serious condition, although the person also has a pre-existing health matter. None of the others afflicted by the virus have severe symptoms, Japan’s health ministry said.
Posts from a Twitter user on board the Diamond Princess who posts under the handle @daxa_tw reveal images of medical teams in protective suits walking through the halls of the cruise ship.
Another post shows the a team sorting medical supplies, while a third reveals passengers congregating in a dining area.
The same Twitter user also posted a letter from the captain from Thursday, reporting updates on the numbers of people infected and the measures being taken by the crew, including delivering room service to ‘over 1500 staterooms’ to comfort passengers.
‘I thank everyone for their patience,’ the captain wrote, ‘and that you understand the crew are working extremely hard for you.’
Two US passengers, Roger and Karey Maniscalco, told Good Morning America that ‘inside, nothing has changed – we’re still in our cabins. It’s a little scary to be on board and the numbers just keep climbing.’
Passengers who show symptoms such as fever may now face additional testing, with the quarantine due to continue until February 19.
Others have voiced fears about dwindling medical supplies, including a Japanese passenger who held up a sign from her balcony declaring a ‘shortage of medicine’ in Yokohama Bay today.
President Trump weighed in on the virus outbreak today, hailing his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for being ‘strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack’ against the virus.
There are also fears over a cruise ship arriving in New Jersey on Friday morning with 27 Chinese nationals aboard, after one of them had a fever. That person and four others were rushed to a hospital for isolation after the ship docked, but the CDC cleared the other passengers to disembark.
Separately, a student at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania is being tested for coronavirus after suffering from ‘minor’ respiratory issues.
It is not clear whether the student had visited China, but several other attendees of the college had visited the virus-stricken country in recent times.
Japan ordered the Diamond Princess into quarantine after an 80-year-old former passenger who left the vessel in Hong Kong last month was found to have the virus, which has killed more than 630 people.
All 3,711 people on board were screened for the virus, and 273 of them were selected for further tests because they were either showing symptoms, had disembarked in Hong Kong or been in contact with the 80-year-old.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Japanese authorities announced that the first batch of 102 test results had produced 20 positive results.
Health minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters today that the remaining 171 test results had shown 41 cases of coronavirus, taking the total to 61 out of 273 who were tested.
‘Today they will be sent to hospitals in several prefectures, and we are now preparing for that,’ the health minister said.
Among the 41 who have tested positive for the virus originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan, 21 are Japanese, eight are American, five Australian, five Canadian and one each from Argentina and Britain.
The Briton was later named as Alan Steele, who was separated from his new wife Wendy and taken off the Diamond Princess after learning his test results in Yokohama Bay today.
The huge leap comes amid concern among its 3,700 passengers that they are being kept in the dark about the full extent of the deepening crisis, after 10 cases were discovered on Wednesday and another 10 on Thursday.
British passenger David Abel said today: ‘We haven’t had our temperatures taken we haven’t been asked any more questions … that has not happened for days so how are the medical people able to monitor the health situation of 3,600 passengers on board.
‘So this is what needs to be answered.’
He also raised concerns that, along with the 78 other Britons on board, he might be quarantined yet again when he and his wife arrive home.
‘It would really be good if the Home Office would put something on the news.’ Abel added. ‘It would certainly put the minds of the Brits on board at ease.’
Abel posted a follow up video minutes later, saying that the captain had announced over the tannoy that ambulances were arriving to ferry passengers off the boat.
Yesterday officials could be seen dressed in white hazmat suits, complete with face masks and helmets. An extendable white-tented passageway was wheeled to a door on the side of the massive cruise ship, apparently to protect the identity of people being evacuated from the boat.
As the massive cruise ship docked, passengers who have been told they will have to stay aboard days even if they test negative for the virus, came out onto balconies, some waving to assembled media or taking pictures.
People on board have described confusion and boredom after being confined to cabins following the decision by Japanese authorities to quarantine the vessel.
David Abel said yesterday: ‘One lady hadn’t had an evening meal last night, by nine o’clock and she went outside to try and say, ‘Where’s our food’ and she was shouted at and told, ‘Get back in your room’, so it’s really being enforced.
‘There are people on every floor to make sure that people do not wander outside of their cabins.’
Among those stranded on board are 233 Australians, including Olivia Capodicasa, from Melbourne, who was on the final night of her cruise with her grandmother when the ship was locked down.
She described the conditions as being like ‘hell’ and said she had been watching movies to pass the time.
‘It has been a hell of a 24 hours stuck in here’, she told Sunrise on Thursday morning. ‘I think it is really starting to hit me now that this is the reality and I’m not going home anytime soon’.
The coronavirus epidemic has so far claimed 630 lives and infected more than 28,000 people in 28 countries and territories around the world – but 99 per cent of infections have been in China.
The outbreak has prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency, several governments to impose travel restrictions, and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.
Japan has now confirmed 25 cases of the new coronavirus – excluding the cruise ship infections – among them citizens returning from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.
Tokyo has evacuated more than 500 Japanese citizens from Wuhan, and attracted some criticism for its relatively loose quarantine approach.
There have been several incidences of apparent person-to-person transmission in Japan, including a tour guide and bus driver who contracted the virus after coming into contact with visitors from Wuhan.
Neither had visited China in recent months.
Donald Trump has tweeted his approval at Chinese president Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, saying that ‘great discipline is taking place in China’.
The US President made the positive comments after having a ‘long and very good’ conversation with the Chinese leader.
Earlier this week, China criticized the US for ‘creating and spreading fear’ over the virus as the US put in place a ban on the entry into America of foreign nationals who had recently traveled to China.
In the tweet on Friday, Trump said: ‘Just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus.
‘He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.
‘Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!’
In a press briefing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US ‘hasn’t provided any substantial assistance’ in the virus and has only created ‘panic’ after Washington declared a public health emergency.
Sick passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship containing ‘isolated’ Chinese nationals will be tested for coronavirus after it docked in New York Harbor this morning.
The Anthem Of The Seas docked in Bayonne, New Jersey around 6am on Friday morning, after steaming from the Bahamas with at least a dozen Chinese nationals in isolation.
At least three passengers were seen being rushed off the ship on stretchers for medical care and testing for coronavirus. The medics were not wearing protective masks or other protective garments, aside from gloves.
The other Chinese nationals were interviewed and screened by authorities. The U.S. currently bans any non-citizens from entering the country if they have traveled in mainland China in the proceeding two weeks.
It was not immediately clear where the sick passengers and other Chinese nationals would be transported, but Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, about 70 miles away, is one of 11 military facilities that has been designated to house suspected coronavirus cases under quarantined observation.
Each of those facilities is equipped to house up to 20 people under quarantine at a time, according to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, thousands of other passengers were seen disembarking the cruise ship later on Friday.
Coronavirus symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are 31,481 cases across the world so far and 638 reported deaths, almost entirely in China. There are 12 cases in the US but none in the New York area.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement: ‘We are closely monitoring developments regarding coronavirus and have rigorous medical protocols in place on board our ships.
‘(We) are participating in elevated levels of guest screening (to combat the spread of the virus).
‘We continue to work in close consultation with the CDC, the WHO, and local health authorities to align with their guidance and ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew.’
It is also unclear if the sick passengers on the cruise ship had recently visited mainland China.
The ship, Anthem of the Seas, is scheduled to arrive at the port next to New York city at 6am EST.
The vessel set off from Bayonne, New Jersey, on January 27 for a 12-day cruise taking in Puerto Rico, the Dutch Antilles, Antigua, St Lucia and St Kitts Island, before returning to New York.
It comes as 2,600 passengers were quarantined on board the ship Diamond Princess outside Japan after it emerged that more than ten were suffering from coronavirus.
Tests have shown that 61 people onboard have caught the infection, including a British honeymooner, following fears that it may have been spread via the ship’s canteen.
The cases also include eight Americans, 21 Japanese, five Canadians, five Australians and an Argentinian.