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More than 500 Infected on Japanese Cruise Ship After 14-Day Quarantine

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  • As of Tuesday morning, 1,875 people have died from the coronavirus outbreak, with nearly all of those deaths occurring in China. More than 73,000 people have been infected worldwide.
  • Outside of China, only a few hundred cases have been confirmed, with the largest outbreak occurring on a Japanese cruise ship where 542 people have been infected.
  • That ship, the Diamond Princess, is expected to end a 14-day quarantine period on Wednesday.
  • On Sunday, the U.S. evacuated 340 Americans from the ship. They will now undergo another 14-day quarantine at air bases in California and Texas.

Diamond Princess Cases Rise

As the Diamond Princess cruise ship prepares to allow passengers to disembark following a 14-day quarantine, the coronavirus infection rate aboard the ship continues to rise.

On Tuesday, 88 more cases were confirmed aboard the Japanese cruise ship docked in Yokohama, bringing the total to 542 cases. The outbreak on the ship has become the largest outside of mainland China, where more than 72,000 have been infected and 1,870 have died. 

Outside of mainland China, there have only been several hundred confirmed cases and five deaths: one each in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and France.

Despite a surge in cases, the Diamond Princess will allow passengers who test negative for the virus, now known as COVID-19, to disembark beginning Wednesday. Because passengers will be released in the order they were tested, the disembarkment is expected to last until Friday.

Twelve medically vulnerable guests who have already tested negative for the virus, however, were allowed to leave early on Feb. 16.

How Did the Infection on the Ship Get So Bad?

Because they are enclosed spaces, cruise ships are known to be hotspots for infection. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, multiple cruise ships have been forced to initiate quarantine measures, but the situation on the Diamond Princess has led to about one in seven people on board testing positive for the coronavirus.

The incident began on Jan. 20 when an 80-year-old man from Hong Kong boarded the ship, which then traveled from Yokohama to Hong Kong. On January 25th, that man disembarked in Hong Kong.

On Feb. 1, he reportedly went to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with the coronavirus. After that, medical staff on the Diamond Princess began testing passengers for the virus.

On Feb. 4, the Diamond Princess finished its voyage and docked in Yokohama; however, it canceled its next voyage, which was supposed to begin the same day. Later that evening, cruise officials confirmed that 10 people onboard the ship had tested positive for the coronavirus.

They were then taken to land by the Japanese Coast Guard and transported to local hospitals for treatment. Notably, the other 3,700 people on the ship were told they would not be allowed to leave and would be subject to a 14-day quarantine as required by Japan’s Ministry of Health.

Soon after, 10 more people tested positive. By Feb. 6, 41 more people tested positive for the virus, including 8 Americans. On Feb 8, Princess Cruises announced 6 more cases aboard the ship. On Feb. 9, it announced 66 more cases. Then, another 39 on Feb. 10. And so on.

What Is Life Like on the Ship?

The Diamond Princess has imposed a strict quarantine even onboard the ship. Reportedly, its passengers are largely confined to their cabins. 

If passengers don’t have windows in their rooms or outside access, they arere allowed to go on deck, but they are only allowed outside for up to an hour and a half and must stay three feet from anyone else.

While confined to their rooms, guests have been reliant on the crew, who have delivered everything from meals to towels to medicine to their doors. 

“They’ve basically been told that they need to take care of all these potentially sick people,”  one passenger told TIME Magazine. “They’re kind of the unsung heroes here.”

According to TIME, some people have taken to posting messages on their cabins doors thanking the crew.

“Thank you, all!” one reads. “We know and appreciate everything you are all doing. Stay Healthy, stay strong, and please know you are the real heroes!”

Another photo shows thanks notes written in multiple languages.

Source: Time Magazine

Of the some 500 infected, 33 of those have been crew, but unlike passengers, they’re not afforded a lot of the same protections. For one, there are a lot more risks involved because they must go door to door to deliver items to passengers. For two, they’re also bunking with multiple people, sharing toilets, and eating in mess halls. 

After one crew member who had been delivering meals to guests reportedly came down with a fever last week, he isolated himself in his cabin and was told to take acetaminophen, a common pain-killer. When he ran out, he said it took more than a day for the medical team to replenish his supply. 

During this time and even after recovering from his fever, he was still sharing a cabin.

“There’s nothing we can do,” he told TIME. “There’s not enough cabins for those sick crew members [to isolate themselves in] so they decided to tell us to just stay in our cabins.”

Later, both the man and his cabin-mate were taken to the hospital after testing positive for the virus. 

Last week, Princess Cruises offered its crew aboard the Diamond Princess two months paid vacation for their work onboard the ship.

The United States Evacuates Americans Aboard the Ship

On Sunday, the U.S. made the decision to allow American passengers still aboard the Diamond Princess to fly out of the country on charter planes. 

According to the U.S. Embassy in Japan, no symptomatic or infected passengers would be allowed to board, and all passengers would be screened before the flights. 

Those passengers were then flown to air bases in Texas and California, where they have begun another two-week quarantine. That means, by the time they are allowed to be released, they will have spent almost a full month under quarantine. 

Even though the U.S. said it wouldn’t fly out passengers who were infected with the coronavirus, 14 people tested positive for the virus during their journey to the airport. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the State then decided to allow those passengers to board and be taken home but separated them in “specialized containment area[s].” 

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Washington Post) (Business Insider)

International

Israel Relaxes Abortion Restrictions in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

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The reforms follow similar moves by France and Germany as leaders across the political spectrum denounce the court’s decision.


Health Minister Makes Announcement

Israel is easing access to abortion in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, Nitzan Horowitz, the country’s health minister and head of the small left-wing Meretz party, announced Monday.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s move to deny a woman the right to abortion is a dark move,” he said in the announcement, “oppressing women and returning the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years backward.”

The new rules, approved by a majority in the parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the universal health system. Women will be able to obtain the pills at local health centers rather than only hospitals and surgical clinics.

The new policy also removes the decades-old requirement for women to physically appear before a special committee that must grant approval to terminate a pregnancy.

While women will still need to get approval, the process will become digitized, the application form will be simplified, and the requirement to meet a social worker will become optional.

The committee will only conduct hearings in the rare case it initially denies the abortion procedure.

Israel’s 1977 abortion law stipulates four criteria for termination of pregnancy: If the woman is under 18 or over 40, if the fetus is in danger, if the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or an “illicit union,” including extramarital affairs, and if the woman’s mental or physical health is at risk.

All of the changes will take effect over the next three months.

The World Reacts

Politicians across the political spectrum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision since it was announced Friday.

On Saturday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed support for a bill proposed by parliament that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the country’s constitution.

“For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone,” she wrote on Twitter. “Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text.”

Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law prohibiting the promotion of abortion Friday, just hours before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In Israel, abortion is a far less controversial issue than it is for Americans. Around 98% of people who apply for an abortion get one, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Part of the reason for Israel’s relatively easy access to abortion is that many residents interpret Jewish law to condone, or at least not prohibit, the procedure.

In the United States, several Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee, Hillel International, and the Women’s Rabbinic Network have expressed opposition to the court ruling, and some Jews have protested it as a violation of their religious freedom.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (The Guardian)

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Flight Deporting Refugees From U.K. to Rwanda Canceled at Last Hour

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the U.K.’s asylum policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.


Saved By The Bell

The inaugural flight in the U.K. government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was canceled about an hour and a half before it was supposed to take off Tuesday evening.

A last-minute legal intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) halted the flight. Tuesday’s flight originally included 37 people, but after a string of legal challenges that number dwindled to just seven.

In its ruling for one of the seven passengers, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, the court said he cannot be deported until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.

Another asylum seeker, a 26-year-old Albanian man, told The Guardian he was in a “very bad mental state” and did not want to go to Rwanda, a country he knows nothing about.

“I was exploited by traffickers in Albania for six months,” he said. “They trafficked me to France. I did not know which country I was being taken to.”

A final domestic effort to block the flight in the Court of Appeals failed on Monday. The High Court will make a ruling on the asylum policy next month.

Britains Divided by Controversial Policy

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to lawmakers after the flight was canceled, defending the asylum policy and saying preparations for the next flight will begin immediately.

“We cannot keep on spending nearly £5 million a day on accommodation including that of hotels,” she said. “We cannot accept this intolerable pressure on public services and local communities.”

“It makes us less safe as a nation because those who come here illegally do not have the regularized checks or even the regularized status, and because evil people-smuggling gangs use the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains to fund other appalling crimes that undermine the security of our country,” she continued.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, told CBC the policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.

“We believe that this is all wrong,” he said. “This is all wrong. I mean, saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the right, is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don’t think so. I think it’s… I don’t know what it is.”

An Iranian asylum seeker in a British detention center who was told to prepare for deportation before being granted a late reprieve was asked by ABC whether he ever thought the U.K. would send him to Africa.

“I thought in the U.K. there were human rights,” he said. “But so far I haven’t seen any evidence.”

The Conservative government’s plan was announced in April, when it said it would resettle some asylum seekers 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where they can seek permanent refugee status, apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a safe third country.

The scheme was meant to deter migrants from illegally smuggling themselves into the country by boat or truck.

Migrants have long made the dangerous journey from Northern France across the English Channel, with over 28,000 entering the U.K. in boats last year, up from around 8,500 the year prior. Dozens of people have died making the trek, including 27 who drowned last November when a single boat capsized.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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Ryanair Draws Outrage, Accusations of Racism After Making South Africans Take Test in Afrikaans

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Afrikaans, which is only spoken as a first language by around 13% of South Africa, has not been the country’s national language since apartheid came to an end in 1994.


Airline Won’t Explain Discrimination

Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has received widespread criticism and accusations of racism after it began requiring South African nationals to complete a test in Afrikaans to prove their passport isn’t fraudulent.

The airline told BBC the new policy was implemented because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the U.K.”

Among other questions, the test asks passengers to name South Africa’s president, its capital city, and one national public holiday.

Ryanair has not said why it chose Afrikaans, the Dutch colonial language that many associate with white minority rule, for the test.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and Afrikaans ranks third for usage below Zulu and IsiXhosa. Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language.

“They’re using this in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, told reporters. “Afrikaans, you have roughly 20% of the population of South Africa understand Afrikaans. But the rest don’t, so you’re sitting with roughly 50 million people who do not understand Afrikaans.”

“Ryanair should be careful,” he continued. “Language is a sensitive issue. They may well end up in front of the Human Rights Commission with this.”

Ryanair’s policy only applies to South African passengers flying to the United Kingdom from within Europe, since it does not fly out of South Africa.

The British government has said in a statement that it does not require the test.

Anyone who cannot complete the test will be blocked from traveling and given a refund.

Memories of Apartheid Resurface

“The question requiring a person to name a public holiday is particularly on the nose given that SA has a whole public holiday NEXT WEEK commemorating an historic protest that started in response to language-based discrimination,” one person tweeted.

South African citizen Dinesh Joseph told the BBC that he was “seething” with anger when asked to take the test.

“It was the language of apartheid,” he said, adding that it was a trigger for him.

Officials in the country were also surprised by Ryanair’s decision.

We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel,” South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

Any airline found to have flown a passenger with a fake passport to the U.K. faces a fine of £2,000 from authorities there. Ryanair has also not said whether it requires similar tests for any other nationalities.

Many people expressed outrage at Ryanair’s policy and some told stories of being declined service because they did not pass the test.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)

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