Japan Allows Diamond Princess Passengers to Leave Quarantine

Diamond Princess (file image)

Published Feb 18, 2020 9:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The remaining passengers aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess are expected to begin disembarking today. Test samples have been collected from all 3,000 people who are still on board, and individuals who test negative and did not share a cabin with someone who tested positive will be released to continue their onward journey. The departures will proceed by deck level and room, and the process is expected to be complete by Friday.

Australian and Hong Kong nationals will have the option of traveling home aboard charter flights provided by their respective governments within the next 24 hours, according to a shipboard broadcast shared on social media. A Canadian charter flight has been delayed until Friday.  

Some passengers will still face travel restrictions. The remaining American nationals have been informed that they will be prohibited from traveling to the U.S. for an additional two weeks. "To 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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in a statement Tuesday. 

As of Tuesday, 542 out of the 3,700 people who were aboard the ship when she entered Yokohama have tested positive for the disease, including dozens of American nationals. 328 U.S. citizens were evacuated from the vessel and flown back to the United States earlier this week; 14 received positive test results for the virus during the evacuation and were transferred to the University of Nebraska at Omaha for treatment. 

Westerdam passengers begin to return home

The cruise ship Westerdam was recently allowed to dock and discharge passengers in Cambodia, and several hundred have since departed the city of Sihanoukville for onward travel or return flights home. While no suspected cases of coronavirus were aboard, one 83-year-old female passenger became ill at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia shortly after flying out from Cambodia. Malaysian health authorities say that she has been tested for the virus twice, and both tests came back positive - sparking a scramble to find and test other passengers. 

22 Australian nationals have since returned to Sydney, according to New South Wales Health. 18 have been located, and all are reportedly well, the agency said; they have been asked to self-quarantine for a period of two weeks. Four have not yet been reached. 

"While it is considered very low risk as the Westerdam did not visit China, all people who were on the Westerdam who have returned to Australia should self-isolate for 14 days of leaving the vessel," a spokesperson for the department told the Sydney Morning Herald. 

One former Westerdam crewmember - the ship's comedian, Frank King - told local TV news in Seattle that he had departed a semi-quarantine hotel stay in Cambodia without permission in order to return home. 

"It wasn’t like an armed camp, but they were watching you. If you walked out with your backpack beside you, that’s fine. If you did like I did and you drag your luggage, they tried to stop you," King told Seattle's King 5 News. 

He said that he flew through Bangkok and Dubai to reach Seattle, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection were expecting him. After an interview, they allowed him to enter the U.S. and head for his home town.