A CATALOGUE of blunders may have allowed coronavirus to spread like wildfire around the Diamond Princess before a Briton died from the infection he caught on board.
Authorities quarantined 3,711 passengers and crew – including 78 Brits – after a pensioner who had already got off the ship tested positive on February 1.
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Instead of stopping the spread, trapping so many people in one place created a “boiling pot of transmission”, experts say.
Crew delivered food, water and medicine to passengers in their cabins – potentially exposing themselves to the virus and helping to spread it.
The crew were also sharing rooms, toilets and dining spaces, despite some of them having testing positive.
The ship’s quarantine officer – whose job was going door to door checking on passengers – was one of those found to be infected.
At least 705 people on the American-owned liner contracted the virus during the quarantine, six of whom have now died.
The ship had the largest concentration of Covid-19 cases outside mainland China.
A top Japanese government health adviser, Dr Norio Ohmagari, has admitted the quarantine measures may have helped spread the illness.
He said: “We suspected some of the staff may have been infected, but they had to operate the ship itself, they had to see the passengers, they had to deliver the meals.
“So that may have caused some close contact with the cruise ship workers and also the passengers.
“I’m very sorry for what happened here, because there was a limitation in terms of facility, in terms of the structure of the cruise ship.
“Unfortunately to maintain daily life of the more than 3,700 passengers, we needed help, we needed support from cruise members to maintain the daily life.”
The Diamond Princess was carrying 2,666 guests – half of them from Japan – and 1,045 crew.
It has been docked in Yokohama since February 3 when it returned from a two-week cruise in South-East Asia.
Those who tested positive were taken to hospital on land, but others were confined to their cabins for over a fortnight – and described it as a floating prison.
As the number of cases spiralled by the day, scientists warned the ship was becoming an “incubator”.
Dr Nathalie MacDermott, an outbreak expert at King’s College London, said earlier this month: “Obviously the quarantine hasn’t worked, and this ship has now become a source of infection.
“We need to understand how the quarantine measures on board were implemented, what the air filtration on board is like, how the cabins are connected and how waste products are disposed of.”
Other scientists said the passengers should have been removed from the ship from the beginning.
Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the New York University School of Medicine, said: “Boats are notorious places for being incubators for viruses.
“It’s only morally justified to keep people on the boat if there are no other options.”
Global health expert Dr Roojin Habibi said shutting all the passengers in together had created a “boiling pot of transmission”.
And Dr Anthony Fauci, director of America’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: “I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship.”
Japanese authorities strictly enforced the quarantine, but passengers bitterly called it an “utter joke” and even the crew became increasingly desperate to get off.
Alan Steele, 58, from Shropshire – the first Brit passenger to catch the bug – told Sky News: “There was a terrific rise in numbers because they had people just wandering all around the ship going cabin to cabin to cabin.
“So, if they caught it in one cabin then they’re just spreading it to everyone else aren’t they?”
Binay Kumar Sarkar, one of 160 Indian crew on board, posted a video on Facebook begging for his government to rescue them “before it’s too late”.
And US honeymooners Milena Basso and Gaetano Cerullo pleaded with Donald Trump to get them home.
She told Fox News: “We need help. We are in a desperate, desperate state.”
Around 400 Americans were finally evacuated from the ship last week, followed by citizens from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy and South Korea.
Stranded Brits slammed the UK’s lack of action as pressure grew to bring them home.
Eventually, a chartered flight was sent airlift 32 passengers – taking only those who tested negative for coronavirus.
They were quarantined again at Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral, where four of them tested positive.
Four Brits remained for treatment in hospital in Japan.
Today Japan’s Ministry of Health said one of the four UK nationals had died.
He is thought to have been travelling on the ship with a woman, who was also taken off the ship and stayed behind.
On Monday, Japanese officials revealed nearly two dozen passengers were mistakenly released from the Diamond Princess.
The health ministry said it has found 23 passengers who disembarked despite not undergoing tests required to leave the locked-down vessel.
The passengers in question had negative results before the 14-day quarantine ended, but they should have had a second test for clearance to leave. They were later traced and re-tested.