NAGASAKI - A crew member aboard an Italian cruise ship currently undergoing repairs in southwestern Japan has tested positive for the new coronavirus, while about 20 others are believed to have developed fever since last week, another member of the crew said Tuesday.
The Philippine crew member provided Kyodo News with details of the situation on board the Costa Atlantica, which is docked in the Koyagi district of Nagasaki city, based on information from one of the ship's waiters. There are no passengers on board.
Of the cruise ship's 623 crew, 56 were in close contact with the person who has tested positive. Tests on the 56 have begun, with three testing negative so far, according to the Nagasaki prefectural government and the cruise ship operator.
A senior Nagasaki government official said Monday there could be a cluster of coronavirus infections aboard the ship, which arrived in Nagasaki on Jan. 29 and is scheduled to remain until the end of April.
The ship was originally due to undergo repairs in China but Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., eventually received the repair order due to the virus outbreak, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
In Tokyo, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday he will dispatch ministry officials and specialists from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to the ship.
Since the first virus infection in Nagasaki Prefecture was confirmed in the city of Iki on March 14, no one has boarded or disembarked from the Costa Atlantica. Nagasaki has so far confirmed about 20 cases of coronavirus infection in the prefecture, including the case of the crew member.
Those who had been in close contact with the crew member who tested positive have been quarantined, while other members have been staying in cabins with balconies.
The prefecture is considering requesting the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to deal with the situation. Those with mild symptoms are expected to stay in cabins on the ship under the guidance of specialists.