Coronavirus artwork for digital story
Coronavirus artwork for digital story

Aussie’s coronavirus ordeal amid new cruise ship infections

Another wave of coronavirus infections aboard a cruise ship in Japan includes four Australians and has local officials scrambling to control the outbreak.

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato announced 40 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of on-board infections from the Diamond Princess to 175, 15 of them Australian.

He said one of the latest cases was a Japanese quarantine officer who visited the ship before it went into lockdown last week in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The man caught coronavirus when he boarded the vessel overnight on February 3-4 to retrieve questionnaires and take passengers' temperatures. He wore a protective mask and gloves while undertaking the work.

Four Australians are among 40 new cases of the coronavirus, now named Covid-19, diagnosed on board the Diamond Princess docked in Japan Picture: Getty Images
Four Australians are among 40 new cases of the coronavirus, now named Covid-19, diagnosed on board the Diamond Princess docked in Japan Picture: Getty Images

 

While the Australian Embassy in Tokyo reports the Australians it is supporting in hospital remain in a stable condition and are recovering, some other evacuees are gravely ill.

Mr Kato said four elderly male passengers are in a serious condition, including two in intensive care. Three of them are Japanese.

Bianca D'Silva was among the Australians diagnosed in the most recent wave and told the Herald Sun how her family cruise holiday had turned into a nightmare.

Ms D'Silva was aboard the now-quarantined ship with her parents and 14-year-old brother.

She said she was fine physically and that it just felt like she had a common cold.

"Now I just have to wait for it to clear," she told the Herald Sun.

Her mother Suzanne, father Dellone and brother Brenton and now all in isolation with her in hospital.

Suzanne said they had not heard from Australian authorities.

Bianca D’Silva, 20, from Melbourne was diagnosed with the coronavirus while on board the Diamond Princess. Pictures: Supplied/Herald Sun
Bianca D’Silva, 20, from Melbourne was diagnosed with the coronavirus while on board the Diamond Princess. Pictures: Supplied/Herald Sun

 

Ms D’Silva said it felt like she just had a cold. Pictures: Supplied/Herald Sun
Ms D’Silva said it felt like she just had a cold. Pictures: Supplied/Herald Sun

 

Bianca’s father Dellone, brother Brenton, and mother Suzanne (not pictured) have also been placed into isolation Pictures: Supplied/Herald Sun
Bianca’s father Dellone, brother Brenton, and mother Suzanne (not pictured) have also been placed into isolation Pictures: Supplied/Herald Sun

The new cases come from a round of 53 tests. Of the 40 positive results, 29 are passengers and 10 are crew.

Everyone who is confirmed to have coronavirus is being taken off the vessel for treatment at onshore hospitals.

The outbreak began with an 80-year-old man who disembarked in Hong Kong a few days into the cruise was found to be a carrier.

There were 223 Australians on the original manifest for a two-week voyage that started in Yokohama on January 20 with port calls in Kagoshima, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa. About 2600 passengers and crew remain on board.

The Diamond Princess is subject to a two-week quarantine order from the Japanese government that started on Wednesday last week when people began falling ill.

Australian couple Ellis and Kimberly Vincent are among the Australians on board the Diamond Princess. They said they were recently tested for the virus. Picture: Supplied
Australian couple Ellis and Kimberly Vincent are among the Australians on board the Diamond Princess. They said they were recently tested for the virus. Picture: Supplied

Australian passengers Ellis and Kimberly Vincent, both of whom remain healthy, said they were visited by an English-speaking Japanese doctor in their cabin yesterday to be tested for coronavirus.

"He was very professional and it was a simple procedure, just a swab from the back of the throat. He said they should have results within 24 hours, and if it's negative we won't hear from them. Fingers crossed we don't hear!," said Mrs Vincent, 73, from the NSW town of Banora Point.

She said the doctor explained they were tested because of their pre-existing medical conditions, the medication they take, and their age.

An email update from the Australian Embassy tells passengers it has been advised by Japanese authorities that an additional 45 doctors, 55 nurses and 45 pharmacists have been sent to the Diamond Princess "to address the backlog in medical services and medication needs".

It also addresses passengers' growing concerns about what will happen to them once the quarantine period ends on February 19.

"We will continue to liaise with Princess Cruises regarding their detailed planning as the date … approaches," reads the latest advisory.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has agreed to let the MS Westerdam cruise ship to dock after it was turned away by five countries.

The MS Westerdam has 1455 passengers and 802 crew on board and despite having no sick passengers, it has been turned away from Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines.

London also has its first confirmed case of coronavirus after a woman flew into the English capital from China.

She was diagnosed at a hospital this afternoon a government source told The Sun.

 

 

 

In Australia, 10 people are still being treated for coronavirus, after five others made a full recovery.

Of the 15, five were in Queensland, four in NSW, four in Victoria and two in South Australia.

Another 540 Australians flown in from Wuhan are still in quarantine in Darwin and on Christmas Island.

"It's very likely we will see some more cases in Australia," Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told ABC radio on Wednesday.

The daily death toll in China topped 100 for the first time, pushing the total fatalities above 1100.

There are now more than 45,000 confirmed cases across the globe.

 

 

Professor Martin Marshall of the Royal College of GPs said it could be "several months" before the coronavirus epidemic ends.

"Isolation will kill it, stopping it spreading is what will get rid of the epidemic at some stage or another," he said. "We don't know when that will happen, it might be several months away.

"It might spread a little bit more than it's spread at the moment but if people do isolate then that's the thing that will stop it spreading."

VIRUS HITTING GLOBAL POSTAL SERVICE

It comes as the UN postal agency on Wednesday said flight suspensions linked to the Covid-19 outbreak have hit postal services to China, with at least eight countries stopping deliveries of letters and parcels.

"The spread of the novel coronavirus has led to the suspension of airline flights and is impacting postal operations," the Switzerland-based Universal Postal Union said in a statement. "UPU is carefully monitoring the situation and working closely with postal operators to hopefully overcome these challenges," the statement said.

Asked if there were any precedents, a spokesperson likened the current situation to the transport disruption due to the volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010.

"It's not just a postal issue, it's a trade issue," the spokesperson added, pointing out that the deliveries affected included e-commerce services.

Swiss Post on Wednesday became the latest operator to announce it would no longer take post destined for China.

Denmark, Georgia, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Singapore and Spain have already notified UPU they are halting deliveries.

The US Postal Service meanwhile has said it will no longer handle post transiting to China from other countries.

LONG WAIT FOR VACCINE AS VIRUS NAMED

Earlier, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva it could take 18 months before the first vaccine to fight the virus is created.

He said the delay meant "we have to do everything today using available weapons" - adding the epidemic posed a "very grave threat".

"To be honest, a virus is more powerful in creating political, economic and social upheaval than any terrorist attack," Dr Ghebreyesus said.

"A virus can have more powerful consequences than any terrorist action."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation. Picture: AP
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation. Picture: AP

He also announced that that "Covid-19" will be the official name of the deadly virus.

The "co" stands for "corona", "vi" for "virus" and "d" for "disease", while "19" was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31.

Dr Ghebreyesus said the name had been chosen to avoid references to a specific geographical location, animal species or group of people in line with international recommendations for naming aimed at preventing stigmatisation.

WHO had earlier given the virus the temporary name of "2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease" and China's National Health Commission this week said it was temporarily calling it "novel coronavirus pneumonia" or NCP.

PARENTS PLEA FOR TODDLER'S EVACUATION

Australians trapped in coronavirus-hit Wuhan have been told there are no more evacuation flights planned.

More than 500 Australians have been flown out Wuhan, with the first group taken to Christmas Island and the second group to Darwin for quarantine.

Several stranded Australians said they registered their details with the government but were never informed of departing flights and were left behind, the ABC reports.

 

Meanwhile an Australian couple is pleading for help to evacuate their 18-month-old daughter Chloe Luo, an Australian citizen, who is stuck in the Hubei province.

Her father Yufei Luo told The Guardian they sent their daughter to stay with her grandmother in January to get away from the bushfire smoke in Canberra.

"We thought to send her back just for a couple of weeks, just a month, until the smoke was gone," he said.

"We tried to give her better conditions. Then everything happened in Wuhan."

Mr Luo said the Australian government told him they could not evacuate Chloe on any of the earlier flights.

A man wears a protective mask as he stands under the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
A man wears a protective mask as he stands under the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

"We talked to the government - they said they can only take permanent residents or citizens. Chloe is an Australian citizen but her grandma isn't.

"She can't get to the plane because only her grandma can take her - but her grandma is not an Australian citizen, or permanent resident."

He and his wife can't pick up Chloe because they don't have travel passes through Hubei.

"That's what is happening at the moment," he told The Guardian.

"I think she can't travel by herself. I can only trust myself to go back to pick up Chloe, or my wife."

 

 

MORE SURGICAL MASKS FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS

An additional 300,000 surgical masks will be provided to health care workers across the country - to ensure doctor, pharmacist and health worker safety when treating potential coronavirus infected patients.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday announced the masks would be provided through the primary health network.

He added three patients had been tested for the coronavirus at Christmas Island - two of which had come back negative, with the remainder being provisional.

Doctors, health workers and pharmacists across the country will benefit from an additional 300,000 surgical masks being handed out. Picture: SUPPLIED
Doctors, health workers and pharmacists across the country will benefit from an additional 300,000 surgical masks being handed out. Picture: SUPPLIED

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne added, of the figure, 11 Australians were confirmed to have tested positive to the infection on board the cruise ship.

"They have been taken off the ship and to Japanese medical facilities where, of course, they are being cared for and supported," she said.

"We know this is a very stressful time. It's stressful for the people affected by the virus. It's stressful for those who are experiencing disruption to their families and in their activities.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne. Picture: MICK TSIKAS
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne. Picture: MICK TSIKAS

"But I do urge Australians who are overseas who are in impacted areas to follow all health precautions that we are updating regularly on the Smart Traveller website."

Professor Paul Kelly said officials - including himself, Australia's Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy and external experts - continued to meet on a daily basis with the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee to consider all issues surrounding the health and protection of Australians on home soil.

"We're very closely connected, internationally - in fact, I had a conversation just a few hours ago with a representative from the research community here in Australia who works in the WHO Collaborating Centre on Influenza Centre in Melbourne," he said.

"She is at an international meeting in the World Health Organization's headquarters in Geneva, looking at what we need to know about the various, how it is spread, how to contain the spread, what are the clinical aspects, the laboratory aspects, vaccines, clinical trials, et cetera.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. Picture: MICK TSIKAS
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. Picture: MICK TSIKAS

"There are 9 major topics.

"Experts have been gathered around the world to look at those topics and we're very much connected with that."

Ms Payne added a third flight from Australia to Wuhan was not being considered at present.

"We have consistently indicated, as I've said, that we would prioritise those very vulnerable and isolated Australians and we've assisted those people and family groups who meet those definitions for whom we are able to achieve travel clearance from Chinese authorities," she said.

"With Qantas' help, of course, that numbered 538 people. Qantas has now ceased flights into and out of China."

 

- with wires


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