New Cruise Epicentre As A 623 Crew Cruise Ship Tackles COVID19 Outbreak!


In a major development, more than 30 crew members on an Italian cruise ship docked for repairs in Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture have tested positive for the new coronavirus, raising concern about the impact on the local community, reports Reuters.

Cluster Following Diamond Princess Pattern?

The cluster of infections found on board the Costa Atlantica follows the case of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama two months ago, where more than 700 were found to be infected, although this time only crew members were on board.

  • The Costa Cruises-operated ship was taken into a shipyard in Nagasaki city, in western Japan, in late February by a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) after the virus pandemic had scuttled plans for scheduled repairs in China.
  • The vessel has 623 crew, and after detecting one had been infected tests were carried out on close contacts among fellow crew members.
  • Nagasaki prefectural authorities on Wednesday said they had confirmed a total 34 infections on the ship and appealed for help from the central government to tackle the incident.

“There are a lot of infections on board, and we don’t have the medical system to confirm the health situation and to separate” those who test positive and negative, Governor Hodo Nakamura told a news conference.

“We’ll also need a system for transporting patients. It’s difficult for the prefecture to carry out decontamination work so I want to seek the country’s support.”

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told a separate news conference that the health ministry was cooperating with the Italian government and had sent specialists and cluster infection experts to the ship.


How did it happen?

A Japan Times report earlier this week suggested that a crew member aboard an Italian cruise ship currently undergoing repairs in southwestern Japan has tested positive for the new coronavirus, while about 20 others are believed to have developed a fever since last week, another member of the crew said Tuesday.

The Philippine crew member provided Kyodo News with details of the situation onboard the Costa Atlantica, which is docked in the Koyagi district of Nagasaki, based on information from one of the ship’s waiters. There are no passengers on board.

Of the cruise ship’s 623 crew, 56 were in close contact with the person who has tested positive.

Tests on the 56 have begun, with three testing negative so far, according to the Nagasaki Prefectural Government and the cruise ship operator.

  • A senior Nagasaki government official said Monday there could be a cluster of coronavirus infections aboard the ship, which arrived in Nagasaki on Jan. 29 and is scheduled to remain until the end of April.
  • The ship was originally due to undergo repairs in China but Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., eventually received the repair order due to the virus outbreak.
  • In Tokyo, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday he will dispatch ministry officials and specialists from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to the ship.
  • Since the first virus infection in Nagasaki Prefecture was confirmed in the city of Iki on March 14, no one has boarded or disembarked from the Costa Atlantica.
  • Nagasaki has so far confirmed about 20 cases of coronavirus infection in the prefecture, including the case of the crew member.
  • Those who had been in close contact with the crew member who tested positive have been quarantined, while other members have been staying in cabins with balconies.
  • The prefecture is considering requesting the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to deal with the situation.
  • Those with mild symptoms are expected to stay in cabins on the ship under the guidance of specialists.


Concern was growing, however, about the potential impact on Nagasaki residents after revelations that some crew had left the restricted area where the ship was being repaired.

A Mitsubishi official, at the same news conference, said the company had been assured by Costa Atlantica that crew would not leave the terminal as of March 14,

but it later found out that some had left, for reasons such as visiting hospital or going to the airport to return home upon completion of their work contract.

“Our understanding is that any departure was not for purposes such as sightseeing or eating out,” the official said. He added that anyone leaving the terminal area was screened, with no one allowed out if they had a fever of over 37.5 degrees Celsius.

“We had been told that there was no embarking or disembarking so this is a very regrettable situation,” Nakamura said in response.

The governor also faulted the Italian cruise ship operator for not managing the movements of its crew in the manner it had promised, when asked his view on Mitsubishi’s responsibility.

Social Media A Buzz

News of the ship infections was trending on Twitter and sparked comparisons to the Diamond Princess, which had been quarantined in February. The virus spread to more than 700 people on board the Diamond Princess and experts criticized the government’s quarantine process.

“What, have none of the lessons of the Diamond Princess been learned? It was docked for repairs but were they urgent enough to require this, why was this allowed?” one user tweeted. “They should go back to their own country as soon as possible.”

Crew Testing Going On


Japanese health authorities are testing other crew on board the Costa Atlantica.

Those who test positive with slight symptoms or who are asymptomatic will stay aboard for monitoring, while those in serious condition will be taken to medical institutions, Nakamura said, with those testing negative sent to home nations.

Japan has seen more than 11,500 infections and close to 300 deaths from the new coronavirus, excluding figures from the Diamond Princess.

Latest Development

  • As  of 23rd April, Thursday, 48 crew members were diagnosed with coronavirus, and one worker was ill enough to be moved to a nearby hospital and placed on a ventilator, reports Forbes
  • Authorities are perplexed by the outbreak because the ship has been docked for months and the city has a relatively low number of infections, the Associated Press reported.
  • Crew members who passed temperature checks and other criteria were allowed off the ship for hospital visits or going to the airport to return home, Mitsubishi later learned.
  • Officials also suspect that a crew switch in the past few weeks could have led to the ship’s outbreak.


If more Costa Atlantica crew members are diagnosed with COVID-19. An additional two cruise ships are docked in Nagasaki with only crew aboard. Neither ship has reported anyone showing coronavirus symptoms, according to the AP.


Cruise ships have been criticized as potential breeding grounds for infections before the coronavirus outbreak. But since the COVID-19 crisis began, several cruise ships have struggled to contain the virus spreading onboard, leading the U.S. State Department to advise Americans against taking cruises.. The Diamond Princess, which docked in Yokohama, Japan after completing a two week cruise in February, saw over 700 confirmed infections and 17 deaths in passengers and crew.

Actions Taken Now

  • Nakamura said Japanese authorities are testing the remaining Costa Atlantica crew.
  • Those confirmed to have COVID-19 with either slight symptoms or are asymptomatic will remain on board, while more serious cases will be transferred to nearby health facilities.
  • Crew members testing negative will be sent to their home nations.

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Source: Reuters, Japan Times , Forbes


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