2020 coronavirus outbreak on cruise ships
Passengers who travelled on several cruise ships during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic were found to be infected with the COVID-19 disease. Although most ships involved did not have substantial spread of the disease, there was substantial spread of the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, amongst passengers and crew of a British-registered cruise ship,.
The crisis management team of the German federal government said on 4 March 2020, following several actual and suspected outbreaks on cruise ships, "The Federal Foreign Office has included in its travel advice that there is an increased risk of quarantine on cruise ships."
In response to the growing pandemic, on 11 March 2020, Viking Cruises suspended operations for its 79-vessel fleet until the end of April, cancelling all ocean and river cruises, after it was revealed that a passenger on a cruise in Cambodia had been exposed to the virus while in transit via plane, placing at least 28 other passengers in quarantine. Similarly, on 12 March, Princess Cruises, owner of virus-stricken ships Diamond Princess and, suspended operations for all future cruises on its 18-ship fleet for 60 days. The Federal Transport Minister of Canada announced on 13 March that ships carrying more than 500 people cannot dock in Canada through 1 July 2020.
is a cruise ship registered in Britain owned and operated by Princess Cruises (incorporated in Bermuda and with headquarters in Santa Clarita, California, US), a brand of Carnival Corporation & plc.
SARS-CoV-2 was confirmed on 4 February 2020 to have spread within Diamond Princess during cruise M003, which had departed on 20 January 2020 from Yokohama (Tokyo) for a round trip. By the time passengers disembarked into quarantine the number of confirmed cases on the ship was more than in most countries.
On 20 January 2020, an 80-year-old passenger from Hong Kong, China, embarked in Yokohama, and disembarked in Hong Kong on 25 January. On 1 February, six days after leaving the ship, he visited a Hong Kong hospital, where he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The ship was due to depart Yokohama for its next cruise on 4 February, but announced a delay the same day to allow Japanese authorities to screen and test passengers and crew still on board. On 4 February, the authorities announced positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 for ten people on board, the cancellation of the cruise, and that the ship was entering quarantine.
A total of 3,700 passengers and crew were quarantined by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for what was expected to be a 14-day period, off the Port of Yokohama. On 7 February, the total number of people on board with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections grew to 61. Another 3 cases were detected on 8 February, bringing the total to 64. On 9 February 6 cases were detected, while another 65 were detected on 10 February, bringing the total to 135.
On 11 February, 39 more people tested positive for the virus, including one quarantine officer, bringing the total to 174. Passengers with confirmed cases were reported to be taken ashore for treatment. On 13 February, 44 more people tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 218. On 15 February 67 more people were reported to be infected, bringing the total to 285. On 16 February 70 more people were reported to be infected, bringing the total to 355. The next day on 17 February, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare confirmed 99 more cases, raising the total to 454, 33 of whom were crew members; on 18 February, another 88 cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 542.
Kentaro Iwata, an infectious diseases expert at Kobe University who visited the ship, strongly criticised the management of the situation in two widely circulated YouTube videos published on 18 February. He called Diamond Princess a "COVID-19 mill". He said that the areas possibly contaminated by the virus were not in any way separated from virus-free areas, there were numerous lapses in infection control measures, and that there was no professional in charge of infection prevention—the bureaucrats were in charge of everything. Japanese officials denied the accusations. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commended the efforts to institute quarantine measures, their assessment was that it may have not been sufficient to prevent transmission among people on the ship. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the quarantine process had failed. A day later, Yoshihiro Takayama, an acquaintance of Iwata and a doctor working on Diamond Princess, pointed out what he described as errors in Iwata's description of the situation in a Facebook post that went viral. The next day on 20 February, Iwata removed his videos and apologised to those involved, but still insisted the situation on the ship had been chaotic.
A preliminary report based on the first 184 cases by Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) estimated that most of the transmission on the ship had occurred before the quarantine. The cruise line, Princess Cruises had first assumed there was only minimal risk and had initiated only the lowest-level protocols for outbreaks before the quarantine. By 27 February, at least 150 of the crew members had tested positive for the virus. Dr. Norio Ohmagari, top government adviser and director of Japan's Disease Control and Prevention Center admitted that the quarantine process might not have been perfect. A crew member reported that many of the crew had been expected to still work and interact with passengers even under the quarantine. Princess Cruises stated that Japan's ministry of health was the lead authority defining and executing quarantine protocols, yet Japan's ministry of foreign affairs stated that a criteria of behavior was presented but the ultimate responsibility for safe environment rested with the ship operator.