Passengers on board the quarantined Diamond Princess are being given the option to move instead to a shoreside facility as it emerged that a further 44 people onboard have contracted the coronavirus.
Princess Cruises confirmed this morning that Japanese health officials are planning a voluntary disembarkation, with the most vulnerable guests allowed off first.
So far, there have been a total of 218 confirmed cases of coronavirus on the ship, which is due to remain in quarantine off the coast of Japan until February 19.
The cruise line has been praised on social media for its handling of the crisis, but many are unhappy that passengers have been forced to remain onboard, confined to their cabins.
In an update, the cruise line said: “Princess Cruises has been informed that over the next several days, Japanese health officials are planning a voluntary disembarkation of guests to complete their quarantine period at a shoreside facility.
“From the information available it is our understanding that this will be a phased approach, with the most medically vulnerable guests in the first phase, including older adults with pre-existing health conditions.
“According to officials, guests in the first group will be tested for the 2019 novel coronavirus. If the test is positive, they will be transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and isolation. If the test is negative, they will be given the option to leave the ship and be transported to a quarantine housing facility.”
In the housing facility onshore they will be accommodated in individual rooms with individual bathrooms and they will be given Japanese bento-style boxes of food and transport to a hospital or clinic if they require prescription medication.
Princess said passengers would be welcome to remain on the ship until the end of the quarantine period if they preferred.