David Suzuki on November 27th in his “Nature of Things” presents an episode “The COVID Cruise” which is a behind the scenes look of The Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama Japan in February with 3,700 passengers and crew on board. You may recall there was an outbreak of COVID-19 on the ship which was met with a quarantine which was not a great decision as all these people locked up in confined spaces and cabins created a petri dish for incubation. As epidemiologists say this was a “congregate setting”.
Gently narrated by Suzuki the story is primarily told through the crew and passengers. For some it was a time of fear and terror as their view was that of dozens of ambulances, police and media. The quarantine proved futile and 705 of the passengers and crew tested positive and 14 died.
Can any fault be placed on anyone? In retrospect yes but that is with the knowledge we have since gained about COVID-19. The crew toiled on delivering food and providing clean linens and in so doing became spreaders. The Japanese medicos on board crossed paths with the uninfected spreading the virus further. The evacuations appeared sloppily organized.
The crew received no training on COVID-19 as it was a new mysterious virus. However their initial reaction when the first case was confirmed was based on the Norwalk virus that has plagued cruise ships for years. So it was an enhanced cleaning protocol but that was insufficient.
One gets the impression the crew was without decent PPE to the point some went on Facebook pleading for help. The cruise line contract with crew prohibited them from talking to the media without corporate permission.
The passengers were mostly evacuated by their governments including the Canadians on board.
2020 saw 73 cruise ship COVID infections with 3,000 people infected and nearly a hundred deaths.
I really should stop here and let you hear the passengers and crew speak. Some are highly charged with emotion or terror. Others required Post Traumatic Stress Disorder counselling.
The lessons learnt are what most of us practice today in warding off COVID-19. But again that is now and not then.
One non-medical issue that jumps out at you is the sheer stupidity and or greed of cruise lines sending out 100 cruise ships out after the Diamond Princess. The first cruise since the cruise ship industry shut down was The Sea Dream 1 on November 13 with seven people so far becoming infected.
Kudos to Suzuki for his gentle narration and lack of finger pointing. If there is any finger pointing it was from crew and passengers.
“The COVID Cruise” airs on November 27th at 9 p.m. ET and for free streaming on CBC Gem.
You can watch the trailer https://vimeo.com/475991818
Filmmakers Mike Downie (director) and David Wells (writer and producer) reveal as the world watched Wuhan the same drama was playing out on the Diamond Princess.
I never had the slightest interest in taking a cruise and now I am even less interested.