Number of passengers with coronavirus on quarantined cruise ship TREBLES to more than 60


The newlywed wife of a British coronavirus patient who was hauled off a cruise ship during his honeymoon today said she had been left ‘bereft’ and ‘in ribbons’. 

Wendy Marshall Steele, who married Alan Steele last month, said she did not know when she would next see her husband after he tested positive for the virus on board the Diamond Princess in Japan. 

Writing on Facebook from the quarantined cruise liner in Yokohama Bay, she said she would not be able to care for him despite being a nurse. 

‘They have just taken Alan away. I am in ribbons. He is healthy and not displaying any symptoms,’ she said. ‘I am bereft… if he ends up being ill I can’t look after him. NOT only as a wife… but as a nurse. 

‘Apologies if this sounds over emotional but to have your husband taken away from you. Not sure how long it will be until I see him again. 

‘In my working life my colleagues would say “balls of steel” but not today. Counting down the days until I can laugh about stupid things with my husband again.’ 

Mr Steele, from Wolverhampton, said he was not yet showing symptoms of the virus and hopes he may just be a ‘carrier’ but faces a lengthy quarantine in hospital on the mainland.  

He becomes the second UK national known to have the virus, after a businessman who had recently flown back from Singapore tested positive in Brighton yesterday. 

Mr Steele was one of 41 people who learned they had the virus after 171 remaining test results came back on Friday, trebling the ship’s total of virus patients from 20 to 61.  

The newly diagnosed also include 21 Japanese nationals, as well as eight Americans, five Canadians, five Australians and an Argentine.  

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.  

One American passenger told a journalist she was ‘scared… I don’t want to leave this ship in a box.’ 

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.   

Japan ordered the ship 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. 

The passengers were due to be taken to medical facilities in Tokyo and nearby Saitama Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures as well as Shizuoka prefecture in central Japan. 

Mr Steele later revealed himself on Facebook as one of the virus patients, saying: ‘Just to let you all know I have been diagnosed as having the virus and am being shipped to hospital.

‘Would also like to say that at the moment I am not showing any symptoms so just possible a carrier. Will let you know how I am going on when possible.’  

A neighbour, 72-year-old Veronica Richards, said today that Mrs Steele was a care home worker and mother-of-one who had married Mr Steele after divorcing her previous husband.

‘This will give her something to talk about,’ she said 

‘I knew she was on her honeymoon and was expecting her back any time now. She is a lovely woman and she always has a bit of drama in her life.

‘I’ve not met him [Alan] properly and I hope he’s got over it when I do. I don’t need that Coronavirus, I’ve got enough on my plate with my hip.’ 

The 20 people who were earlier diagnosed with the virus have already been removed from the vessel by health workers in protective hazmat suits and taken to hospitals on the mainland.

One of them is in a serious condition, a health ministry official said, without providing further details. 

The tests for coronavirus could now be expanded to further passengers who are ‘susceptible to illness, including elderly people and those with other ailments,’ the health minister said. 

In addition, passengers who had close contact with the 61 virus patients could also be subject to further testing to contain the spread of the virus. 

A Japanese foreign ministry official said today that the quarantine would end on February 19, more than two weeks after the vessel arrived in Japan. 

The official also rejected fears that the virus could be spread through the ship’s ventilation system.  

Tour operator Princess Cruises confirmed the February 19 end date, barring ‘unforeseen developments’.  

Today health workers were working on the shore 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 ship docked, passengers who have been told they will have to stay aboard days even if they test negative for the virus came out on to their balconies, some waving to assembled media or taking pictures.               

People on board have described confusion and boredom after being confined to their cabins and banned from even walking down the corridors following the decision by Japanese authorities to quarantine the vessel.  

Passengers in windowless inside cabins have been allowed only onto open decks briefly, under strict conditions, including wearing a mask at all times.

‘The quarantine officials require that you avoid congregating in large groups and maintain a separation of at least one metre from each other when talking,’ the ship’s captain said in an announcement on Friday morning. 

‘We require that you wear as a minimum, warm clothing, hat and a scarf if possible,’ he added. 

Experts say that cruise ships are particularly vulnerable because of the large number of passengers, many of them older people, in a confined space.  

The ship has spent much of its time anchored in Yokohama Bay, where fork lift drivers in hazmat suits have helped to load supplies on to the vessel. 

It has also returned to the open sea to collect seawater, which can be converted for use in showers and drinking water.    

British passenger David Abel, who is travelling with his wife Sally, today voiced anger that passengers were finding out news from the media and told the captain: ‘We don’t want second hand news, we want to know precisely what is going on.’ 

He 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 dozens of other Britons on board, he might be quarantined yet again when they arrive. 

The UK government put 93 people in quarantine in the Wirral after flying them back from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak. 

‘It would really be good if the Home Office would put something on the news.’ Mr Abel added. ‘It would certainly put the minds of the Brits on board at ease.’   

There are 78 people with British passports on board the vessel, including crew members, but there are no plans to fly anyone back to the UK at present.     

American attorney Matt Smith, 57, and his wife Katherine have a suite with their own balcony but said the quarantine was a ‘hard pill to swallow’. 

‘My thought is, the greater number they diagnose on the ship, the greater chance they’re going to find some reason to extend the quarantine,’ he said.  

Also 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’.

Passengers were finding out about the new infections from the internet before they were announced on the ship, said a 43-year-old Hong Kong resident who is on the ship with his family. 

A separate cruise ship, the World Dream, is being held in quarantine in Hong Kong after eight former passengers tested positive for the virus. 

The ship’s 3,600 passengers are facing a third night stranded, but conditions are less stringent and there are not yet any confirmed virus cases on board. 

In addition, more than 2,000 people are marooned on board the MS Westerdam after Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam all refused entry. 

Japanese leader Shinzo Abe yesterday said his country would not allow foreign passengers to disembark, saying there were suspected virus patients on board.    

However, cruise operator Holland America said last night that ‘the ship is not in quarantine and there are no known cases of coronavirus on board’.   

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 centre 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.  

The coronavirus epidemic has so far claimed more than 630 lives and infected more than 28,000 people in 28 countries and territories around the world, although but 99 per cent of infections have been in mainland 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. 

Researchers suspect the virus emerged from a Wuhan market selling exotic animals at the end of last year. 


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