Aussie couple’s 16-day cruise cabin hell
An Australian couple on board the Grand Princess cruise ship floating off the coast of San Francisco have opened up about their 16-day hell quarantined in their cabin aboard the stranded vessel.
The ship belongs to Princess Cruises, the same company which operated the Diamond Princess, the ship which was held off Japan last month on which more than 700 people tested positive for coronavirus.
Bill Pearce, who is travelling with his wife, Karen, told 7 News that the couple's high-seas adventure had turned into a nightmare.
"I'm more concerned by what happened on the Diamond Princess. The infection is spread by maybe the crew giving us meals or through the airconditioning, we don't know."
The Pearces, who have been confined to their cabin for 16 days, are just two of thousands of passengers isolated in their cabins, as 21 people on board have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"We have the luxury of a window - not much else going on out there," Mr Pearce told the network via FaceTime.
"We don't have a lot of space. The chair I'm sitting on is the only chair in the room."
Mr Pearce filmed empty corridors and hallways as the ship's 3500 passengers stayed in their rooms.
"I'll probably get arrested," he joked.
There are reportedly four Australians on board the cruise ship, including Gold Coast woman, Kylie Chappell, who is working as a crew member.
Before they were confined to their cabin, Mr Pearce went on a last-minute beer run.
"The funny thing is, it's Corona," he said.
They're now facing the prospect of weeks in quarantine.
"Certainly I would like to get out and get some fresh air, that's for sure," Mr Pearce said.
"As long as we've got vegemite, it's all good."
It comes as California's Governor, Gavin Newsom, confirmed the ship would dock at an Oakland military base on Monday (local time) after a deal was struck between the Governor of California and the federal government.
#GrandPrincess Update: The logistics plan went into further review by the state and federal authorities and the ship will not berth in Oakland on Sunday. It will now be Monday – time to be determined.— Princess Cruises (@PrincessCruises) March 8, 2020
Disembarkment could take days with priority given to those who require acute medical treatment and hospitalisation. Priority would also be given to California residents and there was no plan in place for international passengers.
Princess Cruises announced the update on Twitter, stating the Governor's Office of Emergency Services confirmed guests who are non-Californians would be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states while California residents would go to a federally operated facility.
However, crew members will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship.
About 21 passengers on board the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"An agreement has been reached to bring our ship into the port of Oakland," Grand Princess captain John Smith said.
"After docking, we will then begin a disembarkation process specified by federal authorities that will take several days."
The ship was heading from Hawaii to San Francisco when it was held off the California coast on Wednesday to test people with symptoms of the coronavirus.
Cruise officials on Saturday disclosed more information about how they think the outbreak occurred.
GOLD COAST WOMAN ON BOARD SHIP
One of the four Australians onboard has been named as Gold Coast-born woman Kylie Chappell, who works as a cast manager and performer on the vessel, lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Her friend Brooklyn Pascoe told Seven News the news of her friend's predicament was "just a bit of shock".
"To not actually know someone … well hopefully not affected by it but on the ship, it's really scary, it really brings it home," she said.
Her husband Johnathan Wagner is a drummer with Princess Cruises. It is not known if he is on the ship with her.
The Grand Princess, with 3500 people aboard, has been in international waters off San Francisco since Friday.
Authorities want it to dock in a non-commercial port so everyone aboard can be tested, amid reports there were a cluster of coronavirus cases during an earlier voyage.
So far only 46 passengers have been tested.
A military helicopter crew lowered test kits on to the 290m ship by rope on Thursday and later retrieved them for analysis.
The ship is under orders to keep its distance from shore as US officials confirmed it would dock at an Oakland military base on Monday (local time).
"Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require medical help will receive it," US Vice-President Mike Pence said.
BALI CRUISE SCARE UNFOUNDED
It comes as two cases of pharyngitis were behind the luxury cruise liner the MV Viking Sun being refused entry to two Indonesian ports and held up in Bali over fears of Covid 19 infection.
Two passengers on the vessel displayed symptoms of coronavirus and the ship was refused permission to dock at two ports in Java then it was denied approval to dock in Bali's Benoa.
A squad of seven doctors and three nurses were deployed from Bali's Mandara Hospital to examine the two people.
"Our doctors examined the two people suspected of having the virus and they found they were suffering from pharyngitis," Director of Bali Mandara Hospital, Gede Bagus Dharmayasa told News Corp Australia.
The harbour master gave the green light for the luxury liner to enter Bali after health officials and screened all 1200 passengers and crew. The Governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, had earlier said the ship would be banned.
A total of 1190 people came ashore after the Viking Sun anchored.
"We have given permission for passengers and crew to get out of the ship. There were 738 passengers and 452 crew who came off the Viking Sun," said Augustinus Maun - the head of Bali's Port Office and Harbour Authority.
Passengers travelling on the luxury liner includes Australian, British, American and Canadian nationals.
"All passengers and crew already had their health checked according to WHO regulations by a team from the port health office, the Bali health office and the Bali Mandara hospital. As a result, passengers and crew were declared healthy and no one was suspected of being infected with coronavirus," Mr Maun said.
Bali's change of heart comes after the MV Viking Sun cruise had a tense standoff and eventual refusal to enter port overnight with Bali authorities declaring it was not risking its resort island ports.
It was turned away from docking at two separate Javanese ports in the past week due to two passengers showing symptoms for coronavirus.
Bali decides to deny entry for the MV Viking Sun, following authorities in Surabaya and East Java over health concerns regarding #COVID19, the ship currently anchored near Benoa Port #coronavirus #CoronaAlert #SARSCoV2 pic.twitter.com/EmDCprmIoR— COVID19 Updates in Asia (@SEACoronavirus) March 7, 2020
Bali authorities specifically called out the fact the ship was carrying Australians and had come from here for their decision, noting the country had a growing coronavirus problem.
The cruise ship was scheduled to dock at Bali's Benoa Port for a two-day stay before moving to Lombok.
Bali Governor Wayan Koster said after a meeting with health authorities in capital Denpasar he decided to "scrap" permission to dock.
"As the best tourist destination in the world, we are very prone to health issues. Thus, we have to be careful," Mr Koster said.
"We don't want to chase a small amount money if it could have a major negative impact on tourism, the backbone of Bali's economy."
Of the passengers who disembarked 375 people went to the airport to fly out of Bali while the other 363 went on tours and sightseeing. The Viking Sun will leave Bali on Monday evening.
Bali has zero confirmed cases, however, 17 foreign tourists and two Indonesians are held in isolation and are waiting for test results. The island of Java has six confirmed cases and 21 people in isolation units in hospital in Jakarta.
16 MILLION ITALIANS ON LOCKDOWN
A quarter of the Italian population was in lockdown on Sunday (local time) as the government took drastic steps to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus sweeping the globe, while Iran recorded another 49 deaths and the national airline suspended flights to Europe.
Italy's COVID-19 death count is now 233, more than any other country outside China.
The outbreak has now killed more than 3500 people and infected over 105,000 across 95 countries and territories.
Italy's measures, in place until April 3, bar people from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without good reason, according to a decree published online.
The quarantine zones are home to more than 15 million people and include the regions around Venice and financial capital Milan. Cinemas, theatres and museums will be closed nationwide.
The World Health Organisation praised Italy for its "bold, courageous steps", according to a tweet by its boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, however, urged Italy to ban its citizens from travelling abroad.
The lockdown does allow for the return home of those who were in the affected areas but live elsewhere, including tourists.
Flights appeared to be operating normally out of Milan and Venice airports and it was also business as usual at train stations.
The borders with Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia remain open. Pope Francis, meanwhile, expressed solidarity on Sunday with the victims of the virus in his first livestreamed prayer and message from the Vatican.
"I join my brother bishops in encouraging the faithful to live this difficult moment with the strength of faith, the certainty of hope and the fervour of charity," he said.
HOSPITAL SEEKING PASSENGERS FROM SINGAPORE FLIGHT
Meanwhile, passengers on board a flight from Singapore to Sydney last month have been asked to self-isolate and St Vincent's Hospital is urgently seeking patients who may have come in contact with a man who tested positive for COVID19 after presenting to the hospital's emergency department.
Two more newly confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported overnight by NSW Health taking the total number of people who have contracted the disease in NSW to 40.
St Vincent's Hospital is searching for patients who may have been exposed to the coronavirus after a man in his 70s who was in the Darlinghurst emergency department on Friday tested positive to coronavirus.
The man had not recently travelled overseas and the source of his infection is not known.
"St Vincent's Hospital is in the process of contacting patients who may have come in contact with him," NSW Health said in a statement.
The other case is a man in his 40s who recently travelled overseas.
NSW Health is working to identify anyone who may have come into close contact with the man while he was infectious.
Health authorities have also released the details of a flight in which a man in his 50s was aboard while potentially infectious.
Passengers who arrived on QF02 leaving Singapore on February 27 and arriving in Sydney February 28, and were seated in rows 31 to 33 have been asked to self-isolate and call their local public health unit for further guidance on 1300 066 055.
AMA BACKS SICK DOCTOR
The doctor scolded for going to work with coronavirus symptoms and later testing positive for the infection is being backed by the Australian Medical Association, which says an "apology is appropriate" as "the guidelines did not require him to be tested".
As a result, the AMA is calling for a unified national approach and guidelines to identifying and treating the deadly coronavirus, in a bid to prevent states adopting separate policies.
That is according to national association president Tony Bartone, who said Dr Chris Higgins, the father of singer Missy Higgins, acted with informed clinical judgment to test himself despite not being required to under the guidelines.
His comments were directed at MP Jenny Mikakos after she said she was "flabbergasted" a doctor with flu-like symptoms had continued to treat patients.
"At the time that he returned to Australia, the guidelines did not require him to be tested," Dr Bartone said on Sunday.
"When he did have the test, he still not did need to be tested, and indeed … those guidelines still do not require that anyone returning from the USA to be tested.
"I believe that an apology is appropriate in the circumstances."
It is understood Ms Mikakos has spoken with Dr Higgins but did not apologise.
Instead of apologising, Ms Mikakos said everyone has to prevent the spread of the virus.
She said in a statement on Sunday: "We understand the pressure they (healthcare system workers) can feel to turn up to work when they are feeling unwell. All of us have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent the spread of this virus."
MAN IGNORES HEALTH ADVICE TO SELF-ISOLATE
A man in Hobart with coronavirus ignored health advice to self-isolate and instead went out to a restaurant and a nightclub, and worked at a major hotel.
The student, aged in his 20s, arrived in Hobart on February 26 after travelling from Nepal and Singapore, and suffered cold-like symptoms in the days following.
He was tested on Friday and advised to self-quarantine while awaiting the results.
The man went to nightspots Cargo and Obar before working a shift at the Hotel Grand Chancellor. He also attended the Australian Ideal College twice, where he is a student.
Health authorities are working with the hotel to determine whether any of the man's colleagues had close contract with him and require isolation.
He tested positive for the virus on Saturday and is now in isolation at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
FURTHER RESTRICTIONS FOR CUSTOMERS
Customers of Coles and Woolworths are facing tighter restrictions on toilet paper purchases nationwide, with the supermarket giants today announcing new limits are in place.
Now shoppers are only able to buy one pack per customer at Coles and two at Woolworths just days after
Coles shoppers are now limited to one pack per transaction, both in-store and online.
It comes just days after the competitors limited customers to four packs per transaction.
Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said the decision came as many stores were selling out within an hour of delivery and many shoppers, particularly the elderly and people unable to purchase in large volumes, were missing out because of stock piling amid coronavirus outbreak fears.
It is Coles' priority that everyone is able to access toilet paper, therefore today we have made the decision to temporarily change the limit to 1 pack per customer.— Coles Supermarkets (@Coles) March 8, 2020
For the most up to date information on product availability please head to our website -https://t.co/mS51Csb2TJ
"We have asked our suppliers to focus on increasing production of larger pack sizes and we are prioritising the delivery of these packs to our stores, as a pack of 30 rolls should last an average family for around 3 weeks," he said.
"We are grateful to our team members and suppliers who are working tirelessly to do the best job possible under the circumstances, and we thank our customers for their understanding and support."
A Woolworths spokeswoman said the company encouraged customers to purchase only what they require.
"To ensure more customers are able to purchase what they need, we now have a two-pack per transaction limit on toilet paper, both in-store and online," she said.
"We continue to work closely with our suppliers to get products onto shelves as quickly as we can.
"The makers of Kleenex, Sorbent, Quilton and Woolworths own range of toilet paper are continuing to produce extra stock in Australian facilities to meet the demand.
"As a result, large volumes of toilet paper supply are flowing through daily to our stores nationwide."
Coles and Woolworths, however, are not the only supermarket giants limiting toilet paper purchases per customer.
Costco has limited customers to two 48-packs of toilet paper while Aldi has restricted shoppers to four packs per customer and enforced a longstanding 10 pack limit on essentials including long-life milk, tissues, paper towels and hygiene products.
OFFICER TESTS POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS
An Australian Defence Force officer who travelled from Sydney to Canberra for a meeting last month has tested positive to coronavirus.
The NSW resident, a man in his 40s, was one of two ADF personnel who have been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.
The man attended a meeting at Defence Headquarters in Russell, ACT on February 28.
A second person in the ADF has also tested positive for the coronavirus but it is not yet known if they attended this meeting or what state they are from.
There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the ACT.
About 270 people in Canberra have been tested so far but all have returned negative results.
The coronavirus death toll in Australia has risen to three after a man in his 80s died in NSW.
The 82-year-old, who contracted the virus from an infected aged care worker in her 50s at BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park, died overnight, NSW Health chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
The man's death follows that of a 95-year-old woman who was also a resident at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care home and a 78-year-old man in Perth who had been a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
GET YOURSELF TESTED: HEALTH MINISTER
Anyone in doubt about potentially coming into contact with the coronavirus should get themselves tested even though it could stress the health system, the Morrison Government has advised.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the position was "very clear" if a person believed they may have come into contact with COVID-19 they should self isolate but also not hesitate to seek a test if they become concerned.
"If in doubt, get yourself tested. That's the important message," he said.
"Even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system, we would rather people over test than under test."
Mr Hunt said Australia's Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy would be providing more health advice on Monday but in principle people with flu symptoms needed to be vigilant.
"No country is immune but Australia is deep in preparation and already activation for making sure that people are protected," he said.
More than 105,000 people have now been infected with the disease across 95 countries and at least 3600 have died.
Mr Hunt said Australians must rise to face the "challenges" presented by coronavirus and support nurses, medics and aged care workers trying to do their jobs.
"Our job, working with the states and territory … (and) working with the community, is to make sure that we are not just prepared, but that we are unified," he said.
It comes after Melbourne doctor Chris Higgins, father of Australian singer Missy Higgins, faced criticism for continuing to work for more than a week with an unknown mild case of coronavirus.
Mr Higgins was criticised by Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos for returning to work but the GP hit back on Sunday to explain his decision.
"I had a mild cold when I returned from the USA last Saturday morning, which had almost resolved itself by Monday morning, hence my decision to return to work," he said on social media.
"I hesitated to do a swab because I did not fulfil your criteria for testing but did one anyway on Thursday evening for sake of completeness, not imagining for one moment it would turn out to be positive."