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Diamond Princess quarantine to last longer for some, especially crew

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As the end to the originally projected Diamond Princess quarantine, Feb. 19, nears, the Japan Ministry of Health signaled procedures that will extend that date.

Earliest likely Feb. 21

These entail new testing for coronavirus or COVID-19, beginning Feb, 18. So the first people who test negative would likely be allowed off, earliest, on Feb. 21.

Extended quarantine for some

People who had close contact with someone who got the virus may have to restart the quarantine from that first date of contact. And it looks likely most or all crew will need to begin a new quarantine after the last passenger leaves.

On Saturday, Princess President Jan Swartz shared a letter she sent to everyone on the ship. Seatrade Cruise News reproduces it in full here:

Letter from Jan Swartz

Hello to everyone on Diamond Princess.  

The Japanese Ministry of Health is beginning to share their draft plans for the future as we move toward February 19. We want to be as transparent as possible, so we are sharing what we know, at this time, for both our guests and our team. I’ll start with what we know about for guests. 

While the final plans have not been confirmed to us, the Japanese government have informed us that they may start a new testing process for guests beginning February 18. We understand there is a limit to the number of tests the Japanese government can complete each day, so testing all of our remaining guests could take a few days to complete.  

At this time we do not know – and have no control over – the order in which the Japanese Ministry of Health will test guests. We have been told that it should take at least three days to get an individual’s test result back. So, guests who are tested on February 18 and have negative test results may be able to disembark beginning February 21. Princess will actively support the logistics of your journey home.  At this point, we do not know if any country or airline may have additional requirements. 

Guests who might test positive would be transferred to a medical facility, which is the same process we have followed to date.  

We also now understand the Japanese may handle a select group of guests differently. Anyone who had close contact with a person who tested positive (such as a cabin mate) may have to restart their quarantine from the date their close contact ended.  

We will provide more specifics on all of these items when we are advised by the Japanese authorities. 

Now I want to share our understanding of what this all means for our teammates onboard.  

Once the final guest leaves the ship, we believe that most – if not all – members of our team onboard may be required to begin a formal quarantine. At the beginning of the quarantine, we have been told the Japanese government viewed the guests as more susceptible to the virus due to age and health profiles, among other factors. Therefore, guests were potentially at higher risk, and for this reason a different quarantine protocol was implemented.   

If, or when, a quarantine for our crew is required by the Japanese government, the same isolation and testing process we followed for our guests would then be followed.   

I know this is disappointing news for our teammates, who hoped to return home as soon as possible after the ship is operationally cleared. It is disappointing for all of us.   

Of course, all teammates will continue to be compensated through this entire period, and the two months of paid time off they will receive will begin after they are released from quarantine. There are many more details to determine, and we will share information as we have it through our normal crew communication channels.   

We have begun to look at several options for how we would provide our valued teammates the highest level of support and care. The health and safety of everyone onboard has been our priority throughout this entire period while under the direction of the Japanese Ministry of Health.   

I’m sure you will continue to have questions about the testing protocol and the quarantine. We will continue to share news with you as we get it from the Japanese Ministry of Health.  

I thank you for your continued patience in this ever-changing situation.

Jan Swartz