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Passengers worried amid long wait on cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama over virus

Passengers aboard the Diamond Princess are transported to a Japan Coast Guard vessel in Yokohama's Naka Ward on the morning of Feb. 5, 2020.(Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

Passengers on a cruise ship quarantined in the eastern Japan city of Yokohama remained uneasy as news emerged that 20 people aboard the vessel had tested positive for a new coronavirus originating in China.

The first 10 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship to be found infected with the virus were transported aboard two Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels to the 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters' Yokohama Maritime Disaster Prevention Base in Yokohama's Naka Ward on Feb. 5. They were then delivered to four medical facilities in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, including Yokohama Municipal Citizen's Hospital in the city's Hodogaya Ward.

Reporters crowded around the entrance to the hospital, and ambulances believed to be carrying infected passengers arrived one after the other shortly after 10:30 a.m.

According to passengers, an announcement on the cruise vessel at about 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 5 stated that there had been an order from Japanese officials for passengers to remain in their cabins. At around 8:20 a.m. it was further announced that 10 people had tested positive for the new virus, and that the ship's quarantine period would last for at least 14 days.

Hisashi Nakanishi a 67-year-old worker from the Hyogo Prefecture city of Takarazuka in western Japan was staying with his wife in a cabin measuring about 35 square meters. Early on the morning of Feb. 4, he underwent a virus test but showed no symptoms, and the test was over within a few minutes. He could head freely to the buffet restaurant, or choose a course meal, and was able to watch stage shows in the onboard theater. "There was some talk of the coronavirus, but many people were just acting normally," he said.

Then on the morning of Feb. 5, all passengers were ordered not to leave their rooms. At around 9:30 a.m., there was an announcement that meals would be delivered through room service, but breakfast did not arrive until about midday. Staff wearing masks delivered sandwiches, yoghurt and coffee. Masks and disinfectant had reportedly not been distributed as of the evening of Feb. 5.

Nakanishi had planned his vacation from Jan. 20 to Feb. 4, but now has no option but to wait another 14 days. An acquaintance of his in another cabin has high blood pressure and was worried that he had no more medicine.

"I've been on about 40 cruise vessels, but it's the first time I've experienced this," he said. "I didn't expect that 10 people would test positive," he added following the announcement of the first batch of infections. "I've heard that it can develop into serious illnesses in elderly people. I'm wondering how being shut in their cabins will affect their health."

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita, City News Department, and Nao Ikeda and Shotaro Kinoshita, Yokohama Bureau)

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