NEWS
10/02/2020 4:08 PM IST | Updated 10/02/2020 4:48 PM IST

Coronavirus Cases Double On Cruise Ship In Japan With Nearly 160 Indians On Board

One of the Indian crew members had posted a Facebook video on Friday, appealing the Indian government to evacuate them from the ship.

Carl Court via Getty Images
A member of the media wearing a face mask walks past the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier where it is being resupplied and newly diagnosed coronavirus cases taken for treatment as it remains in quarantine after a number of the 3,700 people on board were diagnosed with coronavirus, on February 10, 2020 in Yokohama, Japan.

The number of people diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on the quarantined  Diamond Princess cruise ship nearly doubled to 130 on Monday, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK said. Sixty-six new infections of the coronavirus have been confirmed on board, the ship’s operator, Princess Cruises, said in a statement.

The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since February 4, when it arrived off the Japanese coast, after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong. 

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The cruise ship has between 138 and 160 Indians among its 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members, according to reports.

One of the Indian crew members had posted a Facebook video on Friday, appealing the Indian government to evacuate them from the ship.

“We are in a grave, dangerous situation. Yesterday, 21 passengers tested positive for coronavirus. Today, the number went up to 62. As many as 41 passengers and two crew were quarantined just now. There are 160 Indians among the crew members. Panic over coronavirus is growing,” Binay Kumar Sarkar said in the video.

“All we want from the Indian government is that we are taken out and kept at an isolated place. Family members are worried. We are scared. We just want to disembark somehow. Please help us,” he said.

On Saturday, Sarkar spoke to The Telegraph via WhatsApp and said the Indian embassy in Japan reached out to him. “A medical team has been posted at the cruise liner. I am grateful to the state government as initiatives are being taken for my return to India by February 17,” he said.

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters
Passengers are seen in their cabins on the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan February 7, 2020.

Sarkar told NDTV that there was full-fledged panic on-board and in a video recorded on board the ship he appealed to the Narendra Modi government to bring people back safely.

Last week, foreign minister S Jaishankar said none of the Indians on the ship had tested positive for the virus and the ministry was closely following developments.

On Monday, the Indian Embassy in Tokyo tweeted out an email ID for queries regarding the Indians on the quarantined ship:

AFP reports that when the boat arrived off Japan, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people for the virus of the 3,711 on board, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities.

The ship’s two-week-long quarantine ends on February 19. 

For some, the quarantine could be even longer. A World Health Organization statement late on Sunday said the period could be extended “as appropriate” for close contacts of newly confirmed cases.

“Lots of the passengers now are getting a bit of cabin fever,” British passenger David Able said in a video posted on Facebook. “Depression is starting to set in.”

Another said he hoped assurances about the effectiveness of quarantine and ventilation on board would prove true.

“I will get nervous if we pass 200,” said the 43-year-old Hong Kong resident quarantined on the boat with his wife, child and several others of his family.

Carl Court via Getty Images
A passenger gestures after hanging a banner reading "please broadcast this on TV" (R) next to banners reading "thank you for reporting this" (C) and "shortage of medicine" (L) on the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier where it is being resupplied and newly diagnosed coronavirus cases taken for treatment as it remains in quarantine, February 10, 2020 in Yokohama, Japan. 

The quarantine has made life on board the ship difficult, particularly for those in windowless interior cabins and a significant number of passengers who require medication for various chronic conditions, AFP reports. 

According to Reuters, small groups are allowed out on deck every other day— with priority given to those whose rooms don’t have windows—but must wear masks and stay well away from other people. People have been given thermometers to regularly monitor their temperatures. 

The disease has killed 908 people, chiefly in mainland China, and infected more than 40,000.