Feb 19, 2020 - Health

Diamond Princess exodus begins as CDC raises health concerns

Passengers are leaving the Diamond Princess cruise liner, operated by Carnival Corp, after a two-week coronavirus quarantine in the port of Yokohama.
Passengers are leaving the Diamond Princess cruise liner after a two-week quarantine in the port of Yokohama, Japan. Photo: Igor Belyayev/TASS via Getty Images

Japan began releasing hundreds of people from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday, but the 100-plus American passengers are restricted from traveling home for at least 14 days, the CDC said.

Details: The CDC said in a statement the two-week quarantine aboard the vessel, quarantined at Yokohama, potentially slowed transmission of the virus. But it "may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship."

"Because of their high-risk exposure, there may be additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the remaining passengers on board the Diamond Princess."
— CDC statement

By the numbers: 542 passengers and crew have been infected with COVID-19 aboard the Diamond Princess — the largest cluster outside mainland China.

  • About 500 people aboard the Diamond Princess who tested negative for the coronavirus and who have not shown any symptoms were due to disembark the cruise ship on Wednesday, per the Japanese government officials. More are set to leave in the coming days.

What they're saying: The CDC said it believes "the rate of new infections on board, especially among those without symptoms, represents an ongoing risk."

  • "[T]o protect the health of the American public, all passengers and crew of the ship have been placed under travel restrictions, preventing them from returning to the United States for at least 14 days after they had left the Diamond Princess," the statement continued.
  • "If an individual from this cruise arrives in the United States before the 14-day period ends, they will still be subject to a mandatory quarantine until they have completed the 14-day period with no symptoms or positive coronavirus test results."

The big picture: The Diamond Princess was carrying 3,700 passengers and crew when the outbreak began — triggered by a guest from Hong Kong, who sailed from Yokohama on Jan. 20 before disembarking back home on Jan. 25, per Princess Cruises. He showed no symptoms aboard the ship, but tested positive for coronavirus in a Hong Kong hospital six days later.

  • 328 American evacuees from the ship are in quarantine at U.S. military bases after arriving from Japan, including 14 confirmed infected with the novel coronavirus after disembarking the ship.
  • Canada, Australia and Hong Kong authorities were organizing charter flights to repatriate their citizens on Wednesday, Princess Cruises said.

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