Woman stayed aboard ship a week after developing coronavirus symptoms
TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - After being infected with the new coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship the physical condition of two passengers had deteriorated after they were quarantined on the ship for more than a week.
The physical condition of two passengers who died after being infected with the new coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship had deteriorated after they were quarantined on the ship for more than a week, despite government efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while managing the health of the passengers and others aboard the ship.
The two were a Japanese man and woman in their 80s.
“We have evacuated elderly people with health risks from the ship to hospitals. We deeply regret the deaths of the passengers,” a senior official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said with a solemn expression at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The passengers who died were an 84-year-old woman, a Tokyo resident, and an 87-year-old man who resided in Kanagawa Prefecture. Although the cruise ship arrived in Yokohama Port on the night of Feb. 3, it was over a week before the two were disembarked. The woman suffered from a fever for eight days from Feb. 5, but it was not until Feb. 12 that she left the ship and was hospitalized in Tokyo.
Despite the woman having developed a fever, it took a week to have her disembarked. Concerning this, the senior official said, “We have no information on that at this time.” At first, passengers displaying symptoms such as fever and coughing underwent an examination for the new coronavirus and those who tested positive for the virus were disembarked. However, the woman did not take the test until Feb. 12, the day of her disembarkment.
On the other hand, the man had bronchial asthma as a pre-existing condition. He developed a fever on Feb. 10 and was hospitalized on Feb. 11. However, his respiratory function deteriorated on Feb. 15 and he was put on a ventilator. Prof. Hironori Sagara of Showa University’s respiratory medicine and allergy division said: “Generally speaking, it is important for patients with respiratory diseases to continue taking their medications in order to prevent their conditions from deteriorating. With the risk of medication being in short supply in mind, they should have been disembarked from the ship as soon as possible.”
At the press conference, many of the questions posed focused on when the two patients were infected with the virus. If they were infected after Feb. 5, when the health ministry decided to have passengers stay aboard the ship, the ministry’s handling of the issue could be called into question as it only allowed passengers to disembark from the ship from Feb. 19, when the two-week observation period was over. While mentioning that “it is natural to think that they had been infected before Feb. 5,” the senior ministry official said that “it is difficult to make a definitive judgment.”
At the press conference, the official expressed a view that there was no problem with the ministry’s handling of the situation, saying, “We have taken appropriate measures to prevent the infection from spreading as well as to help elderly people while achieving a balance between the two tasks.”
“Given the insufficient testing system, it might have been unavoidable that people working on the ship decided to wait a while and see how things went,” said Mutsuo Enomoto, the head of the Enomoto Internal Medicine Clinic in Chofu, Tokyo, who is well versed in medical care for elderly people. “However, it is necessary to closely examine the circumstances of the passengers’ deaths.”
Concerning the outbreak of the new coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess luxury liner, officials from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said that the virus infection had spread among passengers before Feb. 5, when passengers were asked to stay in their cabins, and the number of passengers developing symptoms of the new coronavirus declined after peaking on Feb. 7.
Motoi Suzuki, the head of the NIID Infectious Disease Surveillance Center, explained that it usually takes five to six days from infection to development of symptoms, saying, “The infection among passengers and crew members were contained by asking passengers to remain in their cabins.”
Suzuki and others made the analysis based on data from a portion of the passengers who developed the symptoms while on the cruise ship.
The ship reached the Japanese port on Feb. 3. Due to the outbreak of the virus, passengers were asked to remain in their cabins beginning on Feb. 5.