34 crew have virus on cruise ship docked for repairs in Japan

TOKYO • At least 34 crew members (at press time) aboard a cruise ship docked in the Japanese city of Nagasaki have tested positive for coronavirus, local authorities said yesterday.

The Costa Atlantica first arrived in Nagasaki in January to undergo repairs, with top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga saying roughly 600 crew was on board.

“Many infections have been confirmed on the ship,” Nagasaki Governor Hodo Nakamura told reporters yesterday.

“We hope they will be able to go home in full health as soon as possible. We are asking the national government for help.”

Nakamura said those infected and other crew members remain on the vessel, adding that its Italian operator has told local officials that crew members are self-isolating. But at least 130 are on duty to maintain the ship’s basic functions, Nagasaki officials added.

Japanese officials have not yet been on board, with testing carried out by medical personnel among the ship’s crew using kits supplied by local medical facilities. More planning time, equipment and trained personnel were required before they could board the ship, officials said.

The prospect of a big infection cluster on the ship comes months after Japan dealt with a massive outbreak on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that docked in Yokohama after a former passenger tested positive.

Japanese officials opted to carry out a much-criticised onboard quarantine that they argued would limit infections, but more than 700 people ultimately contracted the virus and 13 died.

Nagasaki officials said no one on board the Costa Atlantica was believed to be in serious condition so far.

Some are believed to have moved around inside Nagasaki city in recent weeks, including those returned home and new crews joining the ship.

Overall, Japan has seen a relatively small outbreak compared to parts of Europe or the US, with around 11,500 infections and 281 deaths (at press time) recorded so far. — AFP