A Japanese disease expert who inspected the Diamond Princess said he was 'so scared' of catching the coronavirus because hygiene on the cruise ship was so bad

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The Diamond Princess cruise ship and Kentaro Iwata, who inspected it.

NHK/YouTube/Kentato Iwata

  • An infectious-diseases expert who inspected the Diamond Princess in Japan said in a video on Tuesday that hygiene on the quarantined cruise ship was so bad that he was "so scared" of contracting the novel coronavirus on board.
  • Kentaro Iwata, who was on the ground during the Ebola and SARS outbreaks, said he "never had fear" of getting those diseases but was terrified of getting the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess.
  • People on the ship have been quarantined in Yokohama Bay since February 3, though some governments evacuated their citizens this week.
  • As of Tuesday, 542 people on the ship had tested positive for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
  • In the video, Iwata described "completely inadequate" infection controls and said that "everybody was not careful about it."
  • A Japanese health official hit back at Iwata's remarks, saying the ship was in good hands.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

An infectious-diseases expert who inspected the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan said the hygiene conditions and infection controls on board were so bad that he was "so scared" of contracting the novel coronavirus.

People on the ship have been quarantined in Yokohama Bay, near Tokyo, since February 3, though some governments evacuated their citizens this week. The number of infections on the ship has steadily risen, with 542 cases of Tuesday.

Kentaro Iwata, the head of the infectious-diseases department at Kobe University Hospital and a member of Japan's Disaster Medical Assistance Team, spent Tuesday monitoring the ship.

In a video posted on YouTube late Tuesday, Iwata, who helped fight Ebola and SARS outbreaks in African countries and China, described the health procedures on the Diamond Princess as "completely inadequate" and said medics on board were callous about the coronavirus.

The Diamond Princess anchored in Yokohama on February 7.

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

"The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control," Iwata said.

"There was no distinction between the green zone, which is free of infection, and the red zone, which is potentially contaminated by the virus."

He added: "I've dealt with lots of infections — more than 20 years. I was in Africa dealing with the Ebola outbreak. I was in other countries dealing with the cholera outbreak. I was in China in 2003 to deal with SARS."

He said he "never had fear of getting infection myself for Ebola, SARS, cholera, because I know how to protect myself and how to protect others and how the infection control should be."

"But inside Princess Diamond, I was so scared," he said. "I was so scared of getting COVID-19, because there was no way to tell where the virus is. No green zone. No red zone. Everywhere could have virus, and everybody was not careful about it."

A passenger stretches on the balcony of the Diamond Princess on February 11.

Reuters/Issei Kato

Iwata also described seeing medical professionals on the ship taking inadequate measures to contain and prevent the spread of the virus.

He said he saw medics in and out of protective gear, as well as eating and touching their phones with the same gloves used to examine the ship and patients.

Watch Iwata's full video here:

Japan's health authorities hit back at Iwata's statement, telling The Asahi Shimbun on Wednesday that it was a misconception that the ship was not in the hands of qualified professionals.

One passenger on the Diamond Princess tested positive for the coronavirus after disembarking in Hong Kong in late January. Some 3,700 passengers and crew members were on the ship at the time.

Multiple health experts said earlier this month that quarantining hundreds of people on the Diamond Princess could actually be contributing to the spread of the virus, Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported.

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