Health screening began on Tuesday for some 3,700 passengers and crew aboard a cruise liner held in quarantine at the Japanese port of Yokohama, after a Hong Kong passenger who sailed on the vessel last month tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus.
The 80-year-old man flew to Japan and boarded the ship, the Diamond Princess, run by Carnival Japan Inc, in Yokohama on Jan. 20 and disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25, the company said.
Photographs and video posted on Twitter by a passenger with the handle @daxa_tw showed masked health workers clad in blue plastic gowns walking down empty corridors as well as views of deserted lounges and a barren deck.
Guests awaiting screening were asked to stay in their cabins, where they answered a questionnaire and had their temperatures taken. But onboard announcements later in the day said about 70% of the health checks had been completed and activities were operating normally except for the casino, shops and photo studio.
Some family members expressed concern about relatives trapped on board. “Unaffected people can easily say ‘keep them out’ but my whole family wants my precious sister to come home safe,” wrote one Twitter user.
Carnival Japan, a unit of British-American cruise operator Carnival Corp, confirmed that the turnaround of the ship had been delayed by about 24 hours for authorities to review the health of all 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on board. About half of those on board were Japanese, a company spokeswoman said.
Carnival’s Princess Cruises Japan later said cruises scheduled to depart from Yokohama on Tuesday and the western Japanese port of Kobe on Thursday would be canceled because of delays related to the coronavirus checks.
Once everyone’s health was checked, those with fevers or who felt unwell would be tested, after which authorities would decide whether to let people leave the ship, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.
Public broadcaster NHK said authorities were checking whether the Hong Kong man who later tested positive had disembarked when the ship docked in Kagoshima, southwest Japan.
NHK also said that when the ship made a stop in Naha on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, about 10 passengers got off after checks showed no passengers had fever or other symptoms.
Also on Tuesday, Japan expanded the scope of its screening for the virus generally after some people who had not met criteria for testing were later found to be infected.
Japan has 20 confirmed coronavirus cases, of these 17 people have been in Wuhan.
On Saturday, Japan began refusing entry to foreigners who have been in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, in the past 14 days as well as people with passports issued in Hubei.
Separately, Taiwan’s government said on Tuesday it would ban cruise ships from calling at the island if they had visited China, Hong Kong or Macau in the 14 days before, or 28 days before if they had previously carried confirmed or suspected cases of the virus.