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Jakarta Post

'I'll let fate take its course': Indonesian crewmen brave virus fears aboard cruise ship

  • Ni Komang Erviani

    The Jakarta Post

Denpasar   /   Thu, February 13, 2020   /   04:59 pm
'I'll let fate take its course': Indonesian crewmen brave virus fears aboard cruise ship A passenger wearing a face mask stretches in his cabin on the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo on Feb. 7. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon )

For Ketut Januartika, working aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off Japan's coast has not been easy, especially amid fears of contracting the Wuhan coronavirus himself.

When he first departed from Bali to work on the cruise ship on Jan. 20, the novel coronavirus, now named COVID-19, was in the news. At that time it had already infected hundreds in China and some other countries, but the Balinese man said he never expected the virus would affect his work.

The 28-year-old, who has worked as a buffet steward with the Diamond Princess since 2014, said everything had been normal inside the cruise ship until it arrived off the coast of Japan last week. It has been quarantined since Feb. 4.

But as the quarantine continues, it is still business-as-usual for the crew members on the ship – including 78 Indonesian nationals – who have to work normally, albeit anxiously, to serve passengers stuck on the ship.

“All passengers are asked to stay inside their cabins,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday evening, "So, every day, we deliver food to all the passengers isolated in their cabins."

The Diamond Princess, carrying 3,711 people, has been quarantined off Yokohama since last week after a former passenger who disembarked last month in Hong Kong was found to have the new coronavirus.

Authorities initially tested nearly 300 people who had close contact with the former passenger or who had shown symptoms, but the testing pool was expanded gradually as new cases were detected.

Read also: Cruise ship rejected by four nations runs out of options

Those who tested positive for the virus have been taken to local medical facilities, while those who remain on board have been confined to their cabins and allowed only briefly onto open decks.  

Januartika said crew members had taken precautions by wearing masks and gloves while carrying out their duties to prevent infection.

“We always wear masks and gloves. Every time we've finished sending food and beverages to the passengers' cabins, we wash our hands and change our gloves,” the native of Klungkung regency said.

“There is also hand sanitizer at every door. So the maximum level of cleanliness is implemented,” he said.

As of Thursday, Japan had tested 713 people onboard and had confirmed that 218 had tested positive for COVID-19, AFP reported.

Januartika said he worried about contracting the virus but noted there was nothing the crew members could do besides waiting for the quarantine to finish and Japanese authorities to allow them to return home.

The cruise management has provided all crew members free internet access during the 14-day isolation period. Januartika has used it to connect with his family in Bali, who have been worrying about his condition, to tell them he is fine.

"I will let fate take its course. I just hope everything will be fine until the quarantine finishes and I can go home soon," he said.

All Indonesian crew members working on the ship were in good condition, he added. 

“We are fine. Be grateful that all of us are well. None of the Indonesians have been infected by coronavirus,” Januartika said, “I hope that when we return home to Indonesia, authorities will not complicate the process by doing excessive examinations. We have been tired out on the ship,” he said.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that none of the 78 Indonesians working on board the Diamond Princess had shown symptoms of the coronavirus.

Read also: Sabang mayor calls for cruise ship to delay arrival in wake of coronavirus outbreak

The Indonesian Embassy in Tokyo has maintained active communication with the Indonesian citizens through a WhatsApp group chat and has provided them with logistical support, which includes a supply of vitamins.

The Foreign Ministry is working with the Transportation Ministry to enlist the support of the manning agency that employs the Indonesian crew members to ensure their safety.

The ministry noted that, in accordance with the Japanese authorities, the isolation period would end on Feb. 19 if there were no further developments. (rfa)