In sickness and in health: Mexican couple endures coronavirus on cruise ship in Japan

The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on February 3

In sickness and in health: Mexican couple endures coronavirus on cruise ship in Japan
Barriers are put up near the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus – Photo: Issei Kato/REUTERS
English 11/02/2020 15:03 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Rocky Swift, Raju Gopalakrishnan & Clarence Fernandez/REUTERS & Guadalupe Galván/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 15:15
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Testing aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has revealed 60 more confirmed cases of coronavirus, media said on Monday, as quarantined passengers took to social media to warn of depression setting in over their confinement.

Monday’s figure takes to 130 the number of infections on the ship docked in Yokohama, domestic broadcasters TBS and NHK said, citing Japanese Health Ministry sources.

The Health Ministry’s communication office had no information on the report when contacted by Reuters.

The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on February 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.

About 3,700 people are aboard the ship, which usually has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670. Passengers have been allowed on decks in shifts to get fresh air and encouraged to regularly take their temperature.

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“Lots of the passengers now are getting a bit of cabin fever,” British passenger David Able said in a video posted on Facebook. “Depression is starting to set in.”

Another said he hoped assurances about the effectiveness of quarantine and ventilation on board would prove true.

“I will get nervous if we pass 200,” said the 43-year-old Hong Kong resident quarantined on the boat with his wife, child and several others of his family.

Japan’s Health Ministry is separating infection counts on the ship and evacuee flights from China from Japan’s official tally. Domestic cases stand at 21.

The disease has killed 908 people, chiefly in mainland China, and infected more than 40,000.

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At least two Mexicans are at the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. José Antonio Alatorre and his wife Lissa do not have a single window in the room to help them know when it is night or day. Trapped since February 3 in the boat, they try to maintain a positive attitude, although they are worried about the coronavirus cases.

Alatorre told EL UNIVERSAL via a telephone interview that he and his wife got on board of the ship on January 20, without knowing about the existence of a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan that would become an international health emergency.

The couple decided to travel but they got hold of the news on January 22 and on February 3, one day before the cruise concluded, the nightmare became true: the captain announced the arrival to Yokohama would be sooner because a person who got off in Hong Kong had tested positive to coronavirus. From that moment, explains José Antonio, “we were locked up.”

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“We are holding the confinement, and we are worried because there are more sick persons each day. Hopefully, it won’t be us,” he says. Once the first passenger tested positive, alarms went on. The rest of those traveling on the ship were evaluated. They were also given a thermometer and were asked to constantly monitor their temperature. In case of exceeding 37.5 C, they must alert the crew.

Being confined in a cabin, without windows, and almost without being able to get out, is not helpful. “Our only window is a TV connected to the ship’s camera,” says José Antonio.

Since February 3, when they were ordered not to go out, they have only been able to breathe fresh air thrice, one hour at a time. Each time they had to wear masks and even gloves. They go out in small groups following the instructions of the captain. Those whose cabin is interior and has no windows or balcony have priority to sunbathe.

The couple is not discouraged and thank the efforts of all the crew, who bring them food thrice a day, “If we need something, they give it to us through the door. We can’t go out and they can’t come in.”

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José Antonio and his wife spend the day talking to their friends – the ship opened the internet signal for free since February 3. “It’s amazing how the day goes by,” says the Mexican who insists “we have been calm.”

“We know we can’t change the situation, but what we can change is the attitude with which we’ll face this situation we’re going through. We try to be positive, of encouraging ourselves to go on, to have a good sense of humor to take things with calm.”

They also exercise. “We do the stretches they suggested in a program of how to exercise in a closed space.”

To his knowledge, there is at least another Mexican couple in the vessel and there are also two co-national employees. The official date for the end of the quarantine is February 19, “if nothing extraordinary happens. It all depends on how things turn up.”

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From the ship, they have been able to communicate with their relatives in Mexico City. “They are worried. We are trying to keep a positive attitude, with good spirits. If they knew we were not fine, they would feel desperate for not being able to do anything at all.”

But José Antonio is optimistic and asserts that he could have no better company, referring to his wife. “She is my great companion. She cheers me up and I do so with her. There’s nothing better than being with the person one loves the most,” he concludes.

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