A passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship waves to the media upon arriving at Yokohama port on February 6, 2020. Ten more people on a cruise ship off Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, local media said, raising the number of infections detected on the boat to 20. Image Credit: AFP

Tokyo: Hidden away in her cabin, Masako Ishida reckons she doesn't face much risk from the coronavirus that has stalked her cruise ship, forcing an onboard quarantine of 3,700 passengers and crew members in the port city of Yokohama.

Ishida, 61, is trying to see the bright side as she faces two long weeks stuck inside the ship. She has a window to gaze out of, unlike some passengers. She, like her two traveling companions - her husband and her mother, both in their 80s - is healthy and not in need of any medications.

By no means, though, is this going to be easy.

After the virus struck, confusion came quickly. Ishida said she first learned that her two-week cruise might be extended not from the crew, but from an article she read online Monday. That report said a man from Hong Kong who had disembarked from the ship, the Diamond Princess, in his home city on Jan. 25 had tested positive for the virus.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship with over 3,000 people on board arrives at Yokohama port on February 6, 2020. Ten more people on a cruise ship off Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, local media said, raising the number of infections detected on the boat to 20 Image Credit: AFP

When she asked some crew members about it, they confirmed the news, she said. But it took a while for other passengers to learn that they might have been exposed to the virus, which has killed hundreds in China.

"There wasn't much information," Ishida said from the ship Wednesday during a call via Facebook.

The Diamond Princess, which has 13 decks and in normal times offers entertainment like movies under the stars and live musical productions, arrived in Yokohama on Monday night and stayed at anchor for two days while authorities decided what to do.

Japanese health workers have begun screening 273 people who displayed symptoms or came into contact with the infected man. So far, 20 of them, including passengers from Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States, have been found to be infected. They were being taken to hospitals.

All 3,700 people on board received an initial health screening. Ishida said authorities who performed it didn't seem to take it very seriously.

Freaking out

When they first took her husband's temperature, she said, the reading was 32 degrees Celsius, or 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit, well below a normal temperature of 98.6.

Ishida asked them to retake it. The second reading was 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 Fahrenheit.

"They didn't put the thermometer into our ears properly," Ishida said.

She has also felt the chaos of the sudden quarantine at mealtimes. Breakfast, delivered by staff members in goggles and masks, didn't arrive until almost 2 p.m. Then lunch came right on its heels.

Nevertheless, the crew members are "serving guests with a smile," Ishida said. "That's giving us some peace of mind."

Latest on the coronavirus
**The death toll in mainland China rose to 563 on Thursday, up by a record 70 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said.

**The total number of infections in China rose by 3,694 on Thursday to 28,018.

**Nearly 260 cases have been reported in 31 other countries and regions outside mainland China, according to a Reuters tally based on official statements from the authorities involved.

**There have been two deaths outside mainland China, in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

**Ten more people on a quarantined cruise liner in the port of Yokohama south of Tokyo have tested positive for coronavirus.
**In the United States, another 350 American evacuees from Wuhan were placed under quarantine at two military bases in California.

**In Hong Kong, 3,600 passengers and crew were confined to their ship docked in the city for tests after three people on board had tested positive earlier.

The ship is steaming back out to sea so it can empty its bilge and supplement its water supplies, its owner, Princess Cruises, said on its website. It will return to port Thursday to take on food and other supplies as it carries on with the two-week quarantine, which covers the incubation period of the coronavirus.

Ishida and her family enjoy cruises and had been especially looking forward to relaxing aboard the Diamond Princess as it wended its way from Yokohama to Kagoshima, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa.

Now, instead of taking a dip in the freshwater pools or going on a "Chocolate Journey," Ishida and her family are whiling away their time playing games on their tablets, reading, watching movies and speaking to family and friends using the ship's now-free Wi-Fi.

Judging by social media, other passengers trapped on board have had more difficult moments.

In a Facebook video, David Abel, a passenger from Britain, said Wednesday morning that he was concerned about how the quarantine might affect his diabetes, saying that he had not eaten in many hours and was fearful that he could fall into a coma.

The problem was resolved, he said, after staff members aboard the ship responded to a flood of emails expressing concern about his condition.

Earlier that morning, he had been more optimistic. As an announcement about the quarantine came over a loudspeaker, Abel said that the passengers would be confined to their cabins and that he was looking forward to the free time.

"Most of my day will be spent writing and researching and so on," he said, adding, "What my bar bill is going to be, goodness only knows."

For Ishida, her biggest worry is about the toll that being stranded on board for such a long time will take on her family.

Still, things could be worse. The last time she went on a cruise, she said, everyone caught the flu.