A B.C. man is among the 251 Canadians being quarantined in their cruise ship cabins off the coast of Japan over concerns of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Twenty people have been taken off the Diamond Princess after testing positive for the deadly respiratory illness, including two Canadians, Japanese health officials confirmed Thursday.
Spencer Fehrenbacher, who is based in Fort Langley, is now waiting for samples to return for the remaining 3,700 passengers and crew, with the quarantine expected to last two weeks.
“The last 36 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster,” he told Global News from his cabin on the ship, which is docked in the port city of Yokohama just outside Tokyo.
Fehrenbacher, 29, is on the ship with his two friends, all of whom have been tested for the virus along with his cabin mate. He says everyone is now “eagerly awaiting” to hear when the results come back.
“Every time you clear your throat, there’s a silence in the room,” he said. “You don’t even think of coughing.”
Fehrenbacher says he first knew something was wrong on Monday as the ship was travelling back from Okinawa. Suddenly, there was an announcement the ship would be increasing speed towards Yokohama because of concerns over the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, cruise ship staff began taking samples from a number of people suspected of contracting the virus.
“When we woke up on Wednesday, there was the announcement that 10 people tested positive,” Fehrenbacher said. Crews followed that news by announcing there would be a 14-day quarantine.
The two Canadians confirmed to be sick with the virus were taken off the ship Thursday along with four Japanese, two Americans, one New Zealander and one Taiwanese. Most were in their 60s and 70s.
They were dropped off as the ship docked and transferred to nearby hospitals for further test and treatment, according to Japanese health officials.
Fehrenbacher, who has been studying abroad in northern China for the past 18 months, says cruise ship staff are treating the quarantined passengers well, offering complimentary wi-fi to allow communication with family members.
Tinfoil-wrapped meals are also dropped off at the cabins three times a day by staff wearing face masks.
“They’ve been extremely communicative and supportive over the last 48 hours,” he said. He added staff are offering prescription refills, and have worked to boost internet speeds and to provide face masks to passengers.
Fehrenbacher said he’s glad he and his friends “splurged” and got cabins with balconies so they can talk to each other, which has helped them maintain their mental health.
“To be quarantined in a windowless cabin would have been very different,” he said.
“It’s a tough state to find yourself in. Controlling your thoughts is definitely the most difficult part of the process,” he said, adding he’s started writing those thoughts down in a journal.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says the Canadian mission in Tokyo has been in touch with the Canadian passengers on the ship to offer them consular assistance and the government will look to the cruise line to repatriate them when the quarantine is finished.
Princess Cruises says it is working with health officials while “ensuring the comfort of our guests” who remain under quarantine.
The Diamond Princess is one of two cruise ships in Asia that have been caught up in the global health emergency. In Hong Kong, more than 1,800 people are also being screened after three passengers on a previous voyage were diagnosed with the virus.
According to the latest figures early Thursday cited by the World Health Organization, the number of confirmed cases has jumped to 28,018, and the death toll is up to 563 globally.
Five cases have been confirmed in Canada, including two in B.C.
—With files from Jordan Armstrong, the Canadian Press and the Associated PressView link »