Australians on Diamond Princess offered transfer to mainland Japan


“Passengers would be separated into single rooms, with a shower and toilet,” the email said. “You would be required to stay in these rooms, and stay separate from partners and other friends or family.”

Menu options at the facility would be restricted to Japanese bento boxes and the facility would be run by Japanese-speaking staff with “limited English”.

The DFAT email said it was “unclear whether there would be access to telephones and Wi-Fi”, but a similar email sent to British passengers by consular staff in Tokyo said neither telephones nor Wi-Fi would be available.

Elderly passengers with existing health conditions would be prioritised for transfer, followed by passengers in windowless rooms – provided they tested negative for the virus.

“There is no medical clinic at the training facility, though there would be a medical team with some access to prescription medications,” the DFAT email said. “Any person who became ill would need to be moved to an external hospital or clinic.”

About 80 per cent of passengers on the ship, which has a capacity of 2670, are aged 60 or older.

The coronavirus has forced cruise ship operators to cancel or redirect dozens of cruises, as countries impose port and entry restrictions.

Another cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, was finally allowed to dock in Cambodia on Thursday after being stranded at sea for several days when five ports in Asia turned it away out of concern its passengers might bring coronavirus ashore, despite no confirmed cases on board.

University of NSW infectious disease expert Raina MacIntyre said cruise ships were a weak link in global efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus as WHO international health regulations were “not enforceable and many countries do not have the resources to comply”.

“A cruise ship on international waters may slip between the cracks of disease surveillance,” Professor MacIntyre said.

NSW Health authorities boarded a cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour on Friday and tested a man for coronavirus but later said the test came back negative and there was no concern for passengers.

Australians on the Diamond Princess, including Queensland couple Jan and Dave Binskin, have implored the Morrison government to evacuate them.

Cairns man Paul Fidrmuc was transferred to hospital after testing positive to the coronavirus, leaving his wife Jacqui on the ship.

“We are missing each other. But health-wise she’s been good,” Mr Fidrmuc told the ABC on Friday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday no other country had flagged plans for an assisted departure of citizens from Japan, and Australia “most certainly does not intend to do that”.

Paul and Jacqui Fidrmuc on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan.

Asked if the ship could be “acting as an incubator” for the coronavirus, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said on Thursday the government was alert to the possibility Australians trapped on the quarantined ship might be at risk.

“Ships are known as incredible places where infectious diseases can be transmitted,” he said.

Professor Murphy said “at the moment” the cases detected on board were “consistent with everyone having been infected before the quarantine was put in place”, but if further cases continued to emerge on the ship, “you’d have to wonder about the quarantine”.

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Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Friday that while being quarantined on the ship was “a very difficult situation”, it appeared to be working well as there had not been any cases exported from the ship onto the Japanese mainland.

Cruise Lines International Association communications director Jon Murrie said cruise lines were “well-equipped and experienced in maintaining health surveillance of passengers and crew”.

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