‘Not perfect’: Japan officials note flaws in Diamond Princess quarantine

Japanese health officials and experts on a government panel acknowledged Monday that the quarantine of the virus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess was not perfect, but defended Japan’s decision to release about 1,000 passengers after 14 days.

The officials said Japanese health authorities faced tough challenges in dealing with a foreign-operated ship that required international negotiations in the absence of established rules in such a crisis.

“The ship was not designed to be a hospital. The ship was a ship,” said Shigeru Omi, a former regional director for the World Health Organization. “Of course isolation was not ideal as would be expected from a hospital, so in my view although the isolation was somehow effective, to a large extent it was not perfect.”

More than 690 people were sickened on the ship and three died.

Omi, a public health expert who heads the Japan Community Health Care Organization, said it was the best they could do. While some people criticized Japan for confining more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship in what they called a botched quarantine, he said it was not feasible to test and relocate all of them for quarantine elsewhere.

Some medical experts who helped on the ship have said the quarantine was poorly managed.

On Monday, the health ministry said a quarantine official and a government employee who helped on the ship had tested positive and were hospitalized, bringing the number of confirmed infections among government officials to six.

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