TOKYO—All but a handful of the passengers of the disease-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship berthed in Yokohama have disembarked. But for Japan, the saga is far from over. Much of the crew remains on board, enduring another 14 days of quarantine—although this time under conditions that Japanese officials hope will prevent any additional infections.
But there has been another worrisome development: As of today, eight public servants who worked on the ship to support the quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19, and more may follow. Most of the roughly 90 health ministry employees who visited the ship during the first 2-week quarantine that ended on 19 February initially returned to their normal work duties, but in light of the infections, the health ministry yesterday revised its policy and now those potentially exposed to the virus on the Diamond Princess are self-quarantining at home for 14 days, according to a ministry official who asked not to be identified.
Still, there are fears here that Japan’s handling of the crisis may lead to new chains of infection. There are now 700 confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to the Diamond Princess, not counting infections discovered among passengers after they’ve gone home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 36 American Diamond Princess passengers who returned on emergency flights have been confirmed as carrying the virus.