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Coronavirus: Thousands of people on two cruise ships quarantined

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At least 10 people on cruise liner in Japan test positive; ship docked in Hong Kong for tests; passengers describe situation on Internet

TOKYO: Thousands of passengers and crew on two cruise ships in Asian waters were placed in quarantine yesterday for the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan.

In Hong Kong, 3,600 passengers and crew were confined to their ship docked in the city for tests after three people on board had tested positive earlier.

The cruise ship World Dream, operated by Dream Cruises, docked there after it was denied entry to the Taiwan port of Kaohsiung on Tuesday. It has some 1,800 passengers and a similar number of staff.

Three mainland Chinese people who had been on board from Jan 19 to 24 were found to have had the virus, Hong Kong's health department said.

Some crew had reported symptoms including fever, health officials said.

In Japan, around 3,700 people are facing at least two weeks locked away on a cruise liner, after officials confirmed yesterday that 10 people on it had tested positive for coronavirus and more cases were possible.

While the infected patients were transferred to hospitals on the mainland, the remainder of the passengers and crew on the Carnival Corp ship were placed in quarantine.

"I want to take sufficient care of the health of passengers and crew and make every effort to prevent the spread of the virus," Japan Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

The decision means passengers on Carnival's Diamond Princess will spend at least 14 days off the Yokohama port.


Passengers detailed their predicament on the Internet, posting photos of officials in masks and gowns conducting health checks, room service meals, empty corridors and a barren deck.

British passenger David Abel said all passengers were confined to their cabins yesterday morning, with staff delivering food room by room.

"The challenging situation for me is that I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic," Mr Abel said in a video taken in his cabin and posted on his Facebook page, adding that regular and timed food intake was a key part of managing his condition.

"We don't have a choice in what we can eat...

"This is not a good situation for me as a diabetic, and I'm certain that there are many, many more diabetics on the ship."

Another passenger, using the handle daxa-tw, tweeted that he was "hearing from many sides that people are troubled and uneasy".

The cruise ship was caught up in the global coronavirus epidemic after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who sailed on the vessel last month tested positive for the virus. The man disembarked in Kagoshima on Jan 22.

Everyone on board on the ship since Monday had received initial health screening, Mr Kato said yesterday, which identified 273 people for testing.

Of that smaller group, 31 results had been received so far, revealing the 10 confirmed cases. - REUTERS