YOKOHAMA, Japan (ABC4 News) – Two passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have died after testing positive for COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus.
The news comes just days after more than 600 passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship, freeing them from a two-week quarantine to send them on overnight charter flights from Japan to U.S. Air Force bases in California and Texas.
A Japanese couple in their 80s, who was taken off the Diamond Princess, died after being hospitalized, according to Japanese officials.
American passengers, now in the midst of another 14-day quarantine at the U.S. Air Force bases, are expressing fears that they could’ve contracted during their return to American soil.
At least 14 evacuees on the flights earlier this week tested positive for the coronavirus, and U.S. officials made a critical decision at the last minute — since the infected weren’t experiencing any symptoms, they were allowed to board and stay in an isolation chamber in the back of the plane.
One evacuee, Karey Maniscalco, of St. George, said it was the first time since she was quarantined that she felt real fear of being exposed. Maniscalco expressed her frustration with the overall lack of transparency.
In a comment posted on Facebook, Maniscalco wrote, “One person who had been confirmed before boarding the plane was sitting next to the bathrooms where everybody had to pass to use the bathroom. They claim that he was in a separate isolated area, that is not true he was sitting right next to the bathrooms.”
She added, “In fact, he used the bathroom right before I did. He did not have special gloves on or anything like that we were all exposed to everyone that had already been confirmed with virus but didn’t tell us.”
The Japanese government has been questioned over its decision to keep people on the ship.
Dr. Kentaro Iwata, a Japanese infectious disease specialist at Kobe University Hospital who visited the Diamond Princess for just one day, said in a video online that the quarantine was “completely chaotic.”
Iwata said one medical officer treating patients aboard the cruise ship allegedly told him she’d given up protecting herself because she believed she was already infected. There was no distinction between the green zone, which is free of infection and the red zone, which is potentially contaminated by the virus, according to Iwata.
“Inside the Princess Diamond, I was so scared. I was so scared of getting COVID-19 because there was no way to tell where the virus is,” said Iwata.
Thirteen more coronavirus cases were reported Thursday, bringing the total number of cases on the docked cruise ship in Japan to 634 — now the largest center for coronavirus infection outside of China.
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