After passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise have finally been allowed to disembark after a lengthy quarantine, a top Japanese government adviser has come forward to acknowledge that the quarantine "may not have been perfect."
The quarantine of the Princess Cruises ship lasted for over two weeks earlier this February, with a reported 705 people contracting the Covid-19 virus during that time. At least 150 of the 1,045 crew members have been infected with the coronavirus.
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center, suggested that the ship's quarantine may have, in fact, caused more infections to spread among the ship's crew and passengers.
Since the crew of the Diamond Princess had been allowed to continue to work throughout quarantine, Ohmagari says infected workers may have passed on "secondary or tertiary" infections to others on board, worsening the outbreak that has already caused over 1,000 deaths.
According to Ohmagari, all crew members should have been isolated at the same time as the passengers.
"We suspected some of the cruise staff may have already been infected, but ... they had to operate the cruise ship itself, they had to see the passengers, they had to deliver the meals," Ohmagari said. "So that may have caused some close contact with the cruise ship workers and also the passengers."
"I'm very sorry for what happened here and there, because there was a limitation in terms of facility, in terms of the structure of the cruise ship."
While Dr. Ohmagari criticized the fact that crew members were not quarantined along with the 3,700 passengers, senior coordinator at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare Yosuke Nita said that crew members could not be completely isolated.
"Unfortunately to maintain daily life of the more than 3,700 passenger cruise, we needed help, we needed support from cruise members to maintain the daily life," he said.
Throughout the two-week time period, many crew members had voiced their concerns over how the quarantine was being handled.
Indian citizen and Diamond Princess crew member Binay Kumar Sarkar released a video on social media begging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for assistance.
"We are extremely scared at this point in time ... Our request is to segregate the crew members from the infected," he said, surrounded by other crew members wearing masks.
"None of us have been checked. Only people who are recording temperatures higher than 37.5 degree Celsius are being checked. If Japan cannot take stock of the situation, please ask for assistance."
Another crew member, Mumbai resident Sonali Thakkar had told CNN that crew members feared that the virus would easily spread among them.
"There are many places where we all are together, not separated from each other," Thakkar said. "Especially when we sit in the same mess hall and eat together, the place where it can spread very fast."
Filipino crew members had been allowed to disembark and return to their home country on Wednesday. However, many Indian and Indonesian crew members still remain on board.
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