3,700 people are being held in a Japanese cruise ship after 10 were found with the Wuhan coronavirus. Experts say liners are more than equipped to handle outbreaks.

Diamond Princess Japan shuip wuhan coronavirus

  • A cruise ship carrying more than 3,700 people is being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan after ten of them were tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus on board.
  • But contrary to popular belief, the ship isn't a ticking time bomb for a mass outbreak, industry experts told Business Insider.
  • Liz Jarvis, editor of Cruise International Magazine, was quarantined on the Diamond Princess in 2017. She said cruise liners "take public health issues very seriously."
  • They already have procedures in place for other outbreaks like the common Norovirus.
  • "When you are quarantined you are essentially on lockdown in your cabin. You have to list all the places you have been around the ship, and your temperature is taken ... before you are allowed to disembark," Jarvis said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

More than 3,700 people are currently being quarantined inside the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the Japanese coast, where at least 11 people on board tested positive for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus.

The Diamond Princess, which arrived in Yokohama on Monday after a round trip to Hong Kong, was immediately quarantined after an 80-year-old passenger tested positive for the coronavirus on January 31.

Fears that the ship was a floating basket case were exacerbated on Wednesday after ten patients were found with cases of the novel coronavirus, which is spread from human to human.

But industry experts say there's nothing to worry about.

Cruise International Magazine editor Liz Jarvis, who herself was quarantined on the Diamond Princess in 2017, said cruise liners are expertly equipped to deal with outbreaks like the coronavirus.

"Cruise lines take public health issues very seriously - I've actually been quarantined myself on Diamond Princess in Japan," Jarvis told Business Insider. It's worth noting that she had been quarantined as an individual, rather than as part of a ship-wide lockdown.

"I know that passenger safety is absolutely paramount to all the team on board, and they act very swiftly in the event of any suspected issue," she said.

Cruise ship Diamond Princess is seen anchored off the Yokohama Port, after ten people on the cruise liner have tested positive for coronavirus in Yokohama

"When you are quarantined you are essentially on lockdown in your cabin," Jarvis said. "You have to list all the places you have been around the ship, and your temperature is taken by the Japanese authorities before you are allowed to disembark."

Traveling on cruise liners may even be better at containing the coronavirus than air travel, Jarvis said.

"You are probably more likely to pick up something on a plane than a ship. On a ship you can breathe sea air [or] your own air," she said.

"Cruise lines are taking measures to minimize the risks, including additional screening at cruise terminals before embarkation, and preventing passengers from embarking if they have been in China within the past month."

More than 60 airlines have canceled flights to mainland China, and several other countries have imposed travel restrictions.

Emrys Thakkar, founder of the Cruise Hive blog, also said liners are more than up to the task of keeping passengers safe.

"Cruise ships are fully prepared for these situations as they already have procedures in place for the common Norovirus which can spread on cruise ships," he told Business Insider.

'Cruise ships today are essentially floating towns'

But while cruise ships are well equipped with medical supplies, and often screen passengers before they embark, cruise expert Tom Hayes said it was "not entirely surprising" to see the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess spread from the one 80-year-old to ten others.

"Cruise ships today are essentially floating towns. They hold thousands of passengers and staff, dozens of restaurants and bars, and produce their own water and electricity," Hayes told Business Insider.

"So on cruise ships, like any town, you will get occasional outbreaks of illness."

cruise ship

"The problem, however, can be exacerbated onboard by the close quarters and shared items on board - such as door handles and furniture. This is something that is unavoidable on any form of transport, be it a cruise ship or an airplane."

"No vacation is risk-free," he said, adding that passengers should take extra health precautions - such as washing their hands - to protect themselves and the crew.

Thakkar also told Business Insider: "It's a tricky situation really, because thousands of passengers are all relatively close together in a limited space. So if the coronavirus is found to have spread onboard, then it would likely infect many passengers."

"It would not be a surprise if there are more infections," he added.

cruise ship hand sanitizer

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry's largest trade association, has also expressed confidence in cruise ships to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Princess Cruises, which runs the Diamond Princess, is a CLIA member.

"The cruise industry is one of the most well-equipped and experienced when it comes to managing and monitoring health conditions of passengers and crew," it said in a statement to Business Insider, referring to the Wuhan virus.

"CLIA members implement outbreak prevention and response measures and their ships must be fitted with medical facilities, shipboard and shore side medical professionals available around the clock, 24/7, to provide initial medical care in the event of illness and prevent disease transmission."

cruise ship dining room

The virus has killed at least 492 people and infected more than 23,000 since it was first discovered in Wuhan, a major city in central China, early December last year. It has also spread to at least 25 other countries.

At least two deaths have been reported outside China: one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

Chinese authorities have quarantined the city of Wuhan and many other cities, with all transportation halted. Shares of airlines, hotels, and cruise lines have also traded lower since the virus began.

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