Diamond Princess

The Coronavirus Diamond Princess Debacle and Government Responsibility

When the Diamond Princess cruise ship set off from Yokohama, Japan, on Jan. 20, little did its passengers and crew know that they wouldn’t be ending the cruise in the same high spirits as when it took off. The coronavirus, also officially known as Covid-19, single-handedly turned their dream holiday into a nightmare of epic proportions. 

The cruise ship, with 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew, had been to other ports in Hong Kong, Japan, Taipei, and Vietnam and would have ended on Feb. 4. But the voyage was abruptly cut a day ahead of its schedule, and the ship returned to the port in Yokohama to be placed on quarantine for 14 days, from Feb. 5 to Feb. 19.

A Chinese passenger who had boarded the ship when it left Yokohama and disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25 tested positive for the coronavirus on Feb.1. The man already had a cough since Day 1 of the journey. 

Amid mounting criticism from foreign and local media, medical experts, and local oppositionists in Japan, the Japanese government did the best it could to test the passengers for the virus and institute control measures. It imposed a quarantine in the interest of public safety and health.

Japanese authorities have admitted that they may have committed errors in the handling of the quarantine process. But international protocol had to be observed, and crises like the virus-afflicted cruise ship had no precedents or established rules to follow. Another ignored issue is the ten cases that were already positive on the first day of testing on the ship, two days after the quarantine. Another ten were added on the second day, and 20 more on the third. It goes to show that contamination was already rampant while the ship was still on its cruise.

Testing kits were lacking, and the elderly and sick had to be prioritized. Designating quarantine facilities was difficult and may pose more problems. At the end of the isolation period, more than 700 passengers had contracted the virus, and many more who had left the ship tested positive afterward. Eight of Tokyo’s government workers who had gone inside the ship were infected. Six passengers have since died.

But why focus the condemnation on Japan alone? True, the ship’s lockdown wasn’t perfect, yet no words of appreciation for the steps that the Japanese administration had taken came from the critics who hadn’t even been there. It was the passengers on the Diamond Princess and those who were admitted to hospitals that were aware and grateful for the way the Japanese officials and doctors handled them. To them, Japan’s Health Ministry has not been negligent in its measures, out of concern for public health and humanitarian goodwill, since about half of the passengers and most of the crew were not Japanese nationals.

To date, the Diamond Princess has the largest cluster of coronavirus cases that is not a territory or country. It is a ship of an American-owned company, Princess Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, which is registered in Bermuda, a British island.

Not to evade responsibilities, but the fact that it had docked on Japanese waters does not necessarily make it solely Abe Shinzo’s responsibility. Going by global protocol, the cruise ship is a foreign entity in Tokyo. Should not the owners of Princess Cruises, and the US and UK governments have accepted responsibility too, and acted accordingly?

Yet, what did the Princess Cruises do besides issue press releases assuring the public that their primary concern is the health and safety of the people on board?

The media has made a fuss out of the passengers intermingling with each other and the crew. After the news, a former passenger on the ship had been confirmed positive for the virus. The ship management decided to continue the social activities and buffet meals to dispel boredom and keep the guests occupied.

Sick and healthy crew members made up mainly of Filipinos, Indians and Indonesians slept and dined together without protective gear and continued to serve the passengers. The Philippines’ health secretary has offered repatriation of the more than 500 Filipino crew members, but about 100 of them refused and preferred to stay on board for fear of losing their jobs.

The US government decided to evacuate the more than 400 American passengers only on Feb. 16-17, two days before the quarantine period ended. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was furious for allowing 14 of them who had been diagnosed positive to get on the plane, insisting that they should have been left behind in Japan.

The CDC, while seeming to commend Abe’s administration’s efforts, disparaged their actions without offering alternatives. Other US government physicians have been vocal about their opinions of Japan’s steps to contain the virus and attend to the people on board the ship. The US president, unsurprisingly, is as unhelpfully active on Twitter as always.

The UK government is tight-lipped on the incident, not criticizing or praising. Still, Britons on the ship are disappointed at their officials’ slow response, evacuating the virus-free Englishmen only after the quarantine period had ended.

All passengers and crew have since disembarked, with the last one out the ship’s captain. But the saga will long be remembered, especially by the people inside the Diamond Princess. Japan will no doubt be better prepared should a crisis erupt again on its shores.

And true to the Japanese traits of respect and politeness, its government adviser Dr. Norio Ohmagari apologized for the “not perfect” quarantine procedures, such as not isolating the crew immediately. But no apologies are forthcoming from the company and the countries that should have accepted responsibility for the fiasco.

40 Comments

  1. Thank you. Japanese do not abandon those in need. We also do not ask for a reward. But we are encouraged by this article. Thank you again.

  2. Thank you really very much to report the truth of Diamond Princes to the World.
    I respect the fairness and brave of the Prague Post as a true journalism.

  3. Prague Post
    To whom it may concern

    Good afternoon from Japan.
    I’m Tomo (Japanese)

    First and foremost, thank you so much for sharing your fair opinion regarding our (Japan) quarantine operation on the Diamond Princess.

    I read your article “The Coronavirus Diamond Princess Debacle and Government Responsibility issued on MARCH 8, 2020”.
    https://www.praguepost.com/world-news/coronavirus-diamond-princess-debacle

    As you stated, it’s regrettable that we only see unreasonable criticisms against our quarantine operation.
    Our quarantine procedure was indeed not perfect, however, according to epidemiological data/analysis and statement issued by Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), our quarantine was EFFECTIVE.

    NIID stated that there is clear evidence that substantial transmission of COVID19 had been occurring “PRIOR TO” the implementation of quarantine on the Diamond Princess on 5 February.
    Reference: https://www.niid.go.jp/niid/en/2019-ncov-e/9407-covid-dp-fe-01.html

    In addition, NIID data shows that the number of the infected “fell” dramatically after the quarantine starting from 5th February by preventing passengers from leaving their rooms.
    Reference: https://twitter.com/Tomo20309138/status/1230984036052389888?s=20

    Those who criticize us have NEVER shown a single epidemiologic data nor evidence to back up their opinions saying Japan had failed.

    I, and many Japanese, have been complaining against Princess Cruises for not taking proper infectious diseases preventive measures inside the cruise ship even though they had known that their Hong Kong guest was infected with the virus.
    A recent interview to Princess revealed that Princess missed a warning alert of infection and didn’t take proper ID measure.
    Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/08/world/asia/coronavirus-cruise-ship.html

    I wrote about it in my English blog…
    Princess Cruises BLOCKED me (Twitter) because I had been asking many times about their responsibility and precaution measures.
    Please have a look at it when you have time.
    https://ameblo.jp/facts-princess-cruises/entry-12581033296.html

    Again, thank you so much for your fair perspective.
    I’ve already translated into Japanese and shared your article on my Twitter.
    https://twitter.com/Tomo20309138/status/1237930822855847936?s=20

    Thank you, Kindest regards*

    Tomo (Japan)

  4. Thank you so much for fair article. This had to be released on every media but all were blaming on Japan except your news. Again as a Japanese, I really am grateful for fair and articulate words. Regards.

  5. Thank you for a fair article based on facts. I wish you all the best in Prague to stay healthy and beat the virus.
    All the best.

    Děkuji za férový článek založený na faktech. Přeji vám vše nejlepší v Praze, abyste zůstali zdraví a porazili virus.
    vše nejlepší.

  6. Thank you for such a fair article.
    I’m so grateful to you.
    Everybody in the world should read this story.
    Thank you so much.

  7. Thank you so much.i think the article is very correct & we ,Japanese,needed such fair issues .
    My son lives in Brno as a student of university.
    I hope the Coronavirus damage will be small in the Czech Republic.
    Let’s have a good relationship for a long time

  8. I really appreciate your article that sounds very fair!! So many media that are affected by CCP tried to blame what Japan did, no matter how little they got details in reality. I believe your paper is not under CCP’s power, because your country didn’t accept their offer to join One area One road policy, which is very brave. That is why the number of infections have been still keeping lower than other European countries those have great relationship between CCP. I hope your country will overcome the serious issues before long. Thanks!

  9. Thanks for your fair article. I hope that the Japanese government’s treatment of Diamond Princess will help prevent the spread of infections on cruise ships in the future.

  10. Thank you for your fair article from Japan!!

    I was quite fed up with CNN, BBC accusing JPN but not British government nor Princess Cruise co ltd.

    Thank you!!!

  11. It’s surprising to see a fair written article when most of the medias are broadcasting bad impression on Japanese government’s control. I hope everyone read this. Thank you for writing correctly.

  12. Thank you for your post regarding Diamond Princess.
    This is it, we would like to insist to all over the world who criticize Japan without seeing the truth.
    All of patients were treated by Japanese taxe, we cannot accept this.

    Anyways, thanks for the awesome article.
    Arigato.

  13. Thank you very much for your article with a fair point of view. For Japanese people, the ways how NYT, BBC, some other UK and US media including Korean media criticized the Japanese government were so unfair and unacceptable. Your article is the only article from a very fair point of view.

  14. I am a Japanese expatriate.
    This article is written fairly and neutrally, without ideological or political bias. It is written based on correct recognition. I look forward to your unbiased reporting in the future.

  15. I would like to thank you because this article speaks for my feelings. I am a Japanese living in Canada, I was not happy about how it had been reported. I feel so satisfied that I got to know someone sees it in fair eyes.

  16. Thank you so much for the fair report!!
    I’m very glad as a Japanese that I found there is someone who understand the effort and achievements of Japanese government.
    Your article made my day! Thank you again.

    I hope you’ll have a nice day!

    Sincerely

  17. Thank you very much for the very fair article. I, as a Japanese citizen, greatly appreciate you published it. I have not read an article as fair as yours, even from our domestic newspapers. I felt relieved to learn that at least there are some people out there who understand our government’s effort of handling the Diamond Princess though it wasn’t “perfect.”

  18. Já jsem Japonka.
    Moc vám děkuji.
    Other country didn’t say anything and even Japanese opposition parliamentarians still criticize about it.

    Děkujeme.

  19. I’m Japanese. Thank you so much for telling the true story that other foreign media have never mentioned. I hope this article will be read widely, especially among those who criticized/stigmatized Japan. Again than you for this article.

  20. Thank you for fair article.
    We Japanese are very angry with the news which criticized Japanese government.
    As you mentioned, the ship is under uk flag and American firm. We just wanted to help the ship.
    The treatment fee is paid by Japanese tax….

  21. Thank you very much, fair article.
    I would like to thank you as one of the Japanese.

    l certainly hope everyone be feeling better very soon.

  22. Thank you so so much for writing this article.
    I’ve depressed about being blamed from other countries as a Japanese tax payer.
    Japanese government is poor at explaining the truth, may be because some Diet members are bought by China like WHO. Oh, Did I tell too much?
    Thank you again and again!

  23. Thank you so much for editing and issuing this article. I’m a Japanese who had been concerning what was going on in Diamond Princess and how were the condition of passengers, crew members and many staffs from Japanese government engaged in quarantine and taking care of people on board.
    So many criticism came from media, against parties, medical doctors and pundits inside and outside Japan made me sad and frustrated by their irresponsibility.
    Thank you again your fairness.
    I rally relieved to read your article.
    I really hope this pandemic ceases soon and many people’s lives are saved.

  24. Thanks for an article written with the right insights. The Japanese people are angry at the UK’s dishonesty against the Diamond Princess.

  25. Great thank you for your fact news report. Till now, I have never seen this report which is truly correct fact and fair in the world. I am Japanese and living in Germany. Unfortunately Germany is too much poor and incorrect news about them. I wish, the fact reports, news will spread to the worldwide soonest who has ship responsibility, which nationality’s diamond princess.
    again, I applicate your news reports. Thank you very much.

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