Indian crew members onboard the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined off the Japanese coast for the past two weeks due to the outbreak of coronavirus, sought help from the Indian government, political leaders, and celebrities in Tamil Nadu to rescue them from the ship.
One of the members, Anbalagan, put out a series of videos showing how the ship has been on lockdown after passengers were tested positive for the virus.
Anbalagan pointed out the restrictions on passengers in the video. Members onboard were asked to walk six feet apart and were allowed to walk on the deck only for a few minutes. Food was sent to their rooms, and they weren’t allowed to move around the ship.
He also said crew members were expected to work together in closed quarters and were at a higher risk of being infected since they weren’t following the safety measures that others were.
“The crew members share plates and eat in the crew mess. We too can be easily infected if we are not released from this place,” Anbalagan said.
Anbalagan and another crew member, Binay Kumar Sarkar, said in the video, “There is a protocol that needs to be followed. We are worried that we might lose jobs or won’t get other jobs if we break the protocol. But what is the point of following the protocol when we don’t know if we will live?”
Anbalagan claimed that at least 10 people from the crew have been tested positive for the coronavirus.
Binay appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his video requesting him to save the Indian crew members onboard the Diamond Princess. “Modi ji has been my idol, and just like how the (IAF) commander (Abhinandan Varthaman) was helped out of Pakistan, we hope you will rescue us as well,” he said.
Anbalagan also appealed to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin, actors Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay, Ajith Kumar to speak up about the issue and help them get released from the ship.
The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine for the past two weeks in the port of Yokohama, Japan after a passenger who travelled last month on the ship was tested positive for the virus.
Out of the 3,711 passengers, 138 of them are Indians, with 132 being a part of the crew and 6 passengers. Authorities have confirmed that 174 people on the ship have been infected with the deadly disease so far.
The Indian Embassy in Japan said all infected people have been taken to hospitals for adequate treatment, including further quarantine, in accordance with the Japanese health protocol.
The embassy was in constant touch with the Japanese authorities to ensure the welfare of Indian nationals onboard the ship as well as the possibility of their early disembarkation, in case they are not found to have tested positive for the virus, it added.
“None of the Indian nationals have complained of discriminatory treatment meted out to them,” it said, adding that the mission has been in constant touch with the ship management company — Princess Cruises (for the crew members) and the employer of six passengers to tie up their travel back to India.
It said that those who have not tested positive, irrespective of their nationality, have not been allowed to disembark except the critically ill passengers and crew members who have been allowed to be taken to hospitals for further treatment and quarantine.
Meanwhile, the operator of the ship on Monday vowed to refund all 2,666 passengers due to the onboard outbreak of the new coronavirus. Carnival Japan Inc., the Japanese branch of Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., which operates the ship, said refunds will be offered via travel agencies through which the passengers made their bookings.
The company will additionally cover all costs incurred by those quarantined aboard the ship since last Tuesday when passengers were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama.