Indians stuck at the coronavirus-hit Japanese cruise ship, off the coast of Tokyo, cannot be evacuated, Union Health Minister Dr Harshavardhan has said. Addressing a press conference on the situation and monitoring of deadly coronavirus in India and abroad, Harshavardhan said that the Indians aboard the cruise ship cannot be taken out as they have been quarantined in the larger interest of preventing the spread of the virus.
"People have been quarantined on the ship as per Japan government rules. The positive cases on the ship have been hospitalised by the Japanese authorities. The rest will remain in quarantine till February 19. We can’t just tell them to take out only our men, it is being done in the larger interest," Harshavardhan said. The Japanese cruise ship had a total 3,711 people on board, out of which 138 are Indians. The ship was quarantined at Port of Yokohama early last week after a passenger who de-boarded last month in Hong Kong was found to be the carrier of the virus on the ship.
Earlier External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that two Indian crew onboard the cruise ship 'Diamond Princess' have tested positive for the coronavirus infection. He said that the Indian mission in Tokyo was providing all assistance to the crew and passengers of the cruise ship.
Briefing the media about India's preparedness to combat coronavirus, the health minister said that the stock of medicines India has to fight the deadly virus will only last two to three months. However, he said, that the shipping minister has confirmed that they have received an extra stocking of medicines for the next 2-3 months. Meanwhile, India has banned the export of N-95 masks, which are reportedly effective in avoiding air-borne COVID-19.
Indian officer sends an SOS
Sonali Thakkar, a security officer on the ship, asked the centre to take them back home or at least send some medical experts along to expedite the coronavirus tests. "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," she said. Sonali sent out yet another appeal to the Indian authorities. "We want the Indian government to take us back to India and isolate us there. Or at least send some more medical staffers across to help these people with the tests. We want to go home," Sonali said.