Published on Thursday, February 13, 2020

Diamond Princess passengers to be allowed to leave ship

Passengers onboard the quarantined Diamond Princess are being given the option to move instead to a shoreside facility as it emerged that a further 44 people onboard have contracted the coronavirus.

Princess Cruises confirmed this morning that Japanese health officials are planning a voluntary disembarkation, with the most vulnerable guests allowed off first.

So far, there have been a total of 218 confirmed cases of coronavirus on the ship, which is due to remain in quarantine off the coast of Japan until February 19.

The cruise line has been praised on social media for its handling of the crisis, but many are unhappy that passengers have been forced to remain onboard, confined to their cabins. 

In an update today, the cruise line said: "Princess Cruises has been informed that over the next several days, Japanese health officials are planning a voluntary disembarkation of guests to complete their quarantine period at a shoreside facility.

"From the information available it is our understanding that this will be a phased approach, with the most medically vulnerable guests in the first phase, including older adults with pre-existing health conditions.

"According to officials, guests in the first group will be tested for the 2019 novel coronavirus. If the test is positive, they will be transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and isolation. If the test is negative, they will be given the option to leave the ship and be transported to a quarantine housing facility."

In the housing facility onshore they will be accommodated in individual rooms with individual bathrooms and they will be given Japanese bento-style boxes of food and transport to a hospital or clinic if they require prescription medication.

Princess said passengers would be welcome to remain on the ship until the end of the quarantine period if they preferred.

In a video update yesterday, Princess executive vice president Rai Caluouri said the ship had increased his circulation of fresh air to cabins and crew areas in what he described as 'an abundance of caution' to reassure passengers it was doing all it can to limit the spread of coronavirus onboard.

He reassured passengers that Princess will continue to deliver prescriptions where needed. So far, it has delivered more than 2,000 drugs he said, and the ship has taken on board a further 200 hand sanitisation stations.

He said the confinement was particularly hard for families with young children, so the crew have activated a digital programme, ABC Mouse, to occupy them.

Caluori's update was positively received by most of the viewers, with many praising Princess for its handling of the situation.

One wrote: "It's great to see you stepping up and doing everything within your power with a situation that is unprecedented and out of your hands. Credit must be given to your staff as well as the passengers on board as it must be something that they and you have never come across before."

Another wrote: "praying for all on board, i think princess has done a very good job at a very trying time i hope to cruise with you next year, thank you for your care."

Some viewers said they would choose Princess for their next cruise following its response to the crisis.

Caluori also confirmed that the 1,000-plus crew trapped onboard are being paid for their time and that they will be given paid leave once the crisis is over.

He said: "We truly appreciate all the support from people around the world and particularly the support for our teammates who are working so hard and doing so much during a particularly challenging experience." 

Meanwhile parent company Carnvial Corporation, which owns several other cruise lines, said it is evaluating contingency plans to deal with crisis.

"While not currently planned, if the company had to suspend all of its operations in Asia through to the end of April, this would impact its fiscal 2020 financial performance by $0.55 to $0.65 per share, which includes guest compensation," it said in a statement.

"In addition, the impact on global bookings will further affect the company's financial performance. The company is currently evaluating contingency plans to mitigate the impact and will provide an update with its first quarter 2020 earnings release in late March." 







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