YOKOHAMA, Japan — As hundreds of passengers disembark from the Diamond Princess on Friday, the Japanese government insists that the quarantine was effective in reducing transmission of the virus on the ship.
It also says its choices were limited at the start, because it lacked facilities on land to isolate all 3,711 people on board.
Still, with at least 634 people on board confirmed to have contracted the virus, many questions remain unanswered. Here are a few of them.
After the first case was diagnosed, why did it take more than three days before the passengers were placed in quarantine?
A former passenger from Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus on Feb 1. Princess Cruises said it learned about this on social media the following day and reached out to Hong Kong authorities. On Feb. 3, after receiving formal notification from Hong Kong, the captain told passengers the ship would wait in Yokohama for Japanese health ministry officials to assess the situation.
But passengers continued to mingle, including at a buffet dinner on Feb. 4. It was only later that the captain told passengers to remain in their cabins. Those three days provided a crucial window for the virus to spread.
Was it ethical to leave more than 1,000 crew members on board to run the ship, with no effective quarantine or isolation, and no choice in the matter?
Indian crew members appealed to their government to get them off the ship, saying they feared for their lives. But their calls went unanswered. In the end at least 74 crew members contracted the virus, with many falling sick after the quarantine was imposed.
Was it right to confine more than 200 people over the age of 80 on board?
Eight days into the quarantine, Japan’s government changed course and began to bring the oldest passengers off the ship, but many people believe it should have acted sooner.
Why did it take a week to bring one 84-year-old woman off the ship after she came down with fever, and did this delay contribute to her death?
Asked about this case, Japan’s government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said only that doctors gave “the highest priority” to people with a fever or over 80 years old.
Did the ship act as a breeding ground for the virus?
The U.S. government seems to think so, mandating an additional two weeks’ quarantine for its evacuated citizens. The Japanese government says the quarantine was effective “in reducing the transmission” of the virus, with most of the infections after Feb. 5 occurring among crew members and within cabins.
Were the conditions safe for people brought in to manage the quarantine?
Infectious disease expert Kentaro Iwata called the conditions on board chaotic and scary, with no effective infection control. The government has pushed back against the criticisms, yet six workers – four government officials, one medic and one ambulance driver – all contracted the virus.