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Passengers on quarantined cruise ship offered mental health counselling

There are almost 3,700 passengers on board the Diamond Princess.

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Passengers have been confined to their cabins (David Abel/PA)

Passengers have been confined to their cabins (David Abel/PA)

Passengers have been confined to their cabins (David Abel/PA)

Passengers quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan amid the coronavirus outbreak have access to mental health counselling and enhanced internet access.

The Diamond Princess is back out at sea after being isolated in the port of Yokohama, with 61 people – including British honeymooner Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton – having been taken to hospitals after testing positive for the virus.

PA Graphics
(PA Graphics)

There are almost 3,700 passengers on board the liner, including 78 British passport holders, and the vessel’s quarantine is due to go on until February 19.

A boss at the the ship’s operator has spoken about the difficulties faced by those on board, and what is being done to help.

In a video posted on Twitter, Rai Caluori, executive vice president at Princess Cruises, said: “It’s unbelievably stressful and challenging for both our guests and our crew. Being isolated to a stateroom for 14 days although well appointed is certainly not an experience we would wish upon anyone.”

Coronavirus
Balconies aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship (David Abel/PA)

He said the company’s president Jan Swartz flew to Japan and met government officials and first responders, adding: “We’re in full coordination and following the expert guidance.”

Mr Caluori said they are delivering room service meals three times a day to all state rooms, providing complimentary internet and telephone connectivity, and have significantly increased the internet bandwidth.

“We recognise that a situation like this can create unprecedented stress, so we’re also offering our guests and crew specialised telephonic mental health counselling if they should be experiencing such stress and mental health issues,” he said.

“I have to say the level of energy, commitment and passion here at our corporate office is very high and we’ve staffed up our corporate office to work 24/7.

“Please be assured we’re doing our best to deal with this situation. We’re here for our guests and we’re here for our crew.

“As I mentioned, these are very unique circumstances that have required us to reorganise our shipboard hotel, food and beverage, and overall guest services operations.”

Mr Caluori said the in cabin video on demand system has been enhanced with a significant amount of extra films and eight additional live TV channels.

He also said the Japanese minister of health has provided additional medical staff to work with the onboard medical team.

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A sign asking for help hung from the balcony of another passenger (David Abel/PA)

British passenger David Abel told BBC Breakfast the ship is now back out at sea and they are confined to their cabins most of the time.

“All passengers are allowed on deck, 50 at a time, deck by deck. So it’s about once every three days we get an hour or 90 minutes to stretch our legs on deck,” he said.

His wife Sally Abel told the programme they are fortunate because they have a balcony, adding: “We’ve been able to get fresh air and get outside, but there are an awful lot of people on here in inside cabins with no windows and no natural light and only just air conditioning, so they really do whoop for joy when they get out.”

Mr Abel said they have to wear masks when on the deck, adding: “If we want to talk to anybody we have to be two metres apart.

“Those are not rules from the ship. They are from the Japan health authority and we have a quarantine health officer watching us when we are on deck.”

PA