An 80-year-old Perth man on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship is believed to be the first West Australian to be diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
- The ship has been quarantined in Yokohama since February 4
- The Perth man is one of more than 200 passengers diagnosed with the illness
- He will be transferred to a hospital on the Japanese mainland for treatment
The man was on board the ship with his wife, who has not tested positive to the virus.
The couple are among the more than 3,000 passengers and crew stuck on the ship in the Japanese port of Yokohama since February 4.
Their daughter Marcelly, who did not want her surname published, told ABC Radio Perth her father Val tested positive for the virus, which has been officially named COVID-19, this morning.
She said her father would now have to be transferred to a hospital on the mainland, but her mother would most likely remain quarantined on the ship.
Infected patients are all being taken off the ship and moved to specialist infection wards equipped with negative pressure rooms, to be treated by doctors and nurses in protective gear.
“There’s no way he can be contacted, because he doesn’t have a mobile phone, so that’s my biggest worry at the moment, is how do we stay in contact with him,” she said.
No obvious symptoms before diagnosis
Marcelly said her father had not shown any obvious flu-like symptoms.
“He’s actually feeling really good. That’s the strangeness of the situation, he’s feeling great, my mum’s feeling good,” she said.
More than 200 passengers on board the Diamond Princess have tested positive to coronavirus. (AP via Kyodo News: Sadayuki Goto)
“My Mum and Dad both have had a bit of mild gastro, but we thought that was from the food.
“But who knows, that could be related to the virus, I don’t know.”
Although it was not known how Marcelly’s elderly father contracted the virus, she suspected it could be linked to the meals being served on the ship.
“We know that a lot of the crews have also fallen ill that are preparing the food, so there are people saying that it may be coming from the food, but again it’s nothing conclusive,” she said.
Marcelly said her parents were anxious about being separated in the wake of the diagnosis.
“So I’m just trying to find out how we can keep in contact with Dad,” she said.
Passengers are allowed out of their rooms for a short period every two days. (AP via Kyodo News: Sadayuki Goto)
She said she had been communicating with the Australian consulate in Tokyo.
“They’ve really been on the front foot with written correspondence. They’ve been updating us once or twice a day, very prompt with replies to any questions I’ve had on email, so I can’t fault them,” she said.
Wife may face another 14 days in quarantine
Despite testing negative to the virus, Marcelly’s mother, 77-year-old Iris, was now facing the prospect of being quarantined for another 14 days.
The official quarantine end date for the ship is February 19, but people who have been in close contact with infected cases will have their quarantine date reset to the last day they met.
“It’s heartbreaking, it’s a very tough situation,” Marcelly said.
“It’s like you can imagine — being in a prison with a TV and a four-by-four cell, with one hour of sunlight and fresh air every two days, it’s not a great situation.
“She obviously had my Dad around previously, but now she doesn’t have him, so it’s not great.”
“The Japanese Government has offered a land quarantine facility, but we don’t have much information about what that alternative is, it doesn’t look like it’s any better than the situation they’re in now.
“In actual fact the ship looks more luxurious than the other facility.”
A total of 219 confirmed cases of coronavirus have now been linked to the Diamond Princess.
Forty-four people were diagnosed yesterday, even though the entire ship has been in a mandatory 14-day quarantine since February 4.