‘We are really scared, tense’: Indian officer aboard virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said that 2 Indian crew members have tested positive for coronavirus.
An Indian security officer, who is among 160 Indian crew members aboard the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, has sent out an appeal urging the Indian government to rescue them and take them back home.
Sonali Thakkar, 24, from Mumbai, has worked for Princess Cruises for the past two years. She is part of the security team on board the ship, working on the gangway as passengers are moved on and off. Her appeal comes as Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted two Indians crew members have contracted coronavirus.
2 Indian crew members have tested positive for #Coronavirus.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 13, 2020
Will keep you updated.
Our Embassy @IndianEmbTokyo is in constant touch with the crew & passengers of #DiamondPrincess off Yokohama, Japan, rendering all necessary support & assistance.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 13, 2020
Passengers & crew are currently quarantined by Japanese authorities. @mkstalin
Thakkar fears the crew are at greater risk of being exposed to the outbreak because they are not being quarantined in the same way as the passengers and are having to continue working to take care of the guests.
The ship was quarantined with more than 3,700 passengers and crew members aboard on February 3.
The cruise ship has the largest outbreak of the virus outside of mainland China, with the number of infections continuing to increase day by day. On Wednesday, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato announced 40 new cases among those on board.
To date, a total of 175 people aboard the Diamond Princess have become infected.
Thakkar said she and her colleague -- who she shares a cabin with -- became ill with a headache, cough and a fever two days ago. Her supervisor told her to stop working and she is currently staying in her cabin in isolation.
"I'm not eating very well and have been having fevers," she told CNN in a Skype call Wednesday. "We all are really scared and tense."
Thakkar fears that the virus may be spreading around the crew members. At least five have already tested positive for the virus.
Thakkar's colleagues continue to live and work in close proximity with each other, sharing cabins and eating together.
She said there are some crew members whose job it is to serve food to the isolated passengers and those on the security team, for example, who had been working around infected people.
"And then we all eat together. There are many places where we all are together, not separated from each other," Thakkar said. "Especially when we sit in the same mess hall and eat together, the place where it can spread very fast."
Thakkar told CNN that her biggest concern is that the crew are not being separated from one another. She said "there's no quarantine" for the crew, "just the passengers."
"We are scared that if the infection is spreading, it is spreading so fast that we could also become one of them. We don't want to. We just want to go back home.
"We just want every crew member to be tested and separated from the rest of the people who are infected. Because we don't know who is carrying the virus or how fast it is spreading... We just want to feel safe. We don't feel safe here with so many people," Thakkar added.
The 160 Indian crew members aboard the Diamond Princess had sought assistance from the Indian government on earlier also. A few days ago, Binay Kumar Sarkar -- a chef from north Bengal -- had gone on social media to appeal to the Indian government for help.
"Please somehow save us as soon as possible. What's the point if something happens (to us)...I want to tell the government of India, Modi-ji, please segregate us and bring us back home safely," he said.
The Indian Embassy in Tokyo responded with an assurance that it is "constantly monitoring" the situation.
Many Indian crew & some Indian passengers are onboard the cruise ship #DiamondPrincess quarantined off Japan due to #Coronavirus (#nCoV). In this context, any query please contact First Secretary (Consular) @IndianEmbTokyo at email@example.com @CPVIndia @MEAIndia @PMOIndia— India in Japanインド大使館 (@IndianEmbTokyo) February 10, 2020