A Japanese expert on infectious diseases was ejected from the Diamond Princess that docked off Yokohama Port, Japan, after he heavily criticized the infection protocols on the liner, calling them “chaotic.”
Dr. Kentaro Iwata, an infectious diseases professor at Kobe University, boarded the Diamond Princess on Tuesday, Feb. 18 as part of the health ministry’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team. He was ordered off the ship after criticizing the quarantine procedures in place, and he then reached out to people through a video on YouTube, which he has since taken down. The reason for the video removal was, as Iwata explained in a new video, many people misunderstood his intentions and inferred he wanted to criticize individuals.
But as the doctor explained, he wasn’t given any time to explain his reasons for pointing out the failures of the quarantine. Iwata only wishes to help improve the situation and said he regrets he wasn’t given any opportunity to make suggestions.
However, since Iwata posted his first video, he said changes have already been implemented on the ship to improve conditions, and he hopes it will continue.
In the first video, the professor said there was no clear separation of noncontaminated “green zones” and potentially dangerous “red zones” on the ship. “The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control,” he can be heard saying in English in the video clip.
“I never had fear of getting infection myself, for Ebola, SARS, cholera because I know how to protect myself and how to protect others and how the infection control should be … (but) I was so scared of getting COVID-19” inside the Diamond Princess, he said.
As of Wednesday, 621 cases of COVID-19 had been identified among the 3,711 quarantined passengers and crew. The Diamond Princess cruise ship has now become host to the most infections with the coronavirus outside China, with the infection able to spread easily among the crew and passengers.
Iwata has now placed himself in isolation, for fear he may have contracted the virus while onboard the liner.
In Japan, opposition lawmakers at Wednesday’s Lower House Budget Committee session brought up the issues the professor had mentioned in his video. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato did not directly reply to the question of whether there were separate green and red zones in quarantine on the liner, instead he said the areas inside the ship were “properly managed.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference that staff and officials had taken “thorough measures to prevent transmission (of the virus),” adding that they took all necessary measures, such as wearing masks and using a disinfectant.
According to Iwata, many onboard were wearing masks and protective clothing, but he also noticed others “eating lunch with their gloves on,” and using their mobile devices while still wearing the protective gear that could be contaminated. The passengers were also asked to sign consent forms, which may have then become contaminated with the virus.
Two elderly Japanese passengers from the ship have died from the virus, and one health ministry official and another from the Cabinet Secretariat were confirmed to be infected. Both officials had spent time on the quarantined ship.
Six hundred passengers were cleared by the Japanese Ministry of Health to disembark on Feb. 19, with several hundred more expected to be cleared on Feb. 20.
They will all be expected to undergo another 14 days of quarantine in their respective countries. Disembarked Japanese passengers are a cause for concern, however, as they face no such quarantine restrictions.