A member of the media wearing a face mask walks past the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier where it is being resupplied and newly diagnosed coronavirus cases taken for treatment.
Carl Court/Getty Images
  • A Japanese disease expert who inspected the Diamond Princess said hygiene on the quarantined cruise ship was so bad that he was genuinely "so scared" of contracting the novel coronavirus on board.
  • Professor Kentaro Iwata, who was on the ground during the Ebola and SARS outbreaks, said he "never had fear" of getting infected by those diseases, but was terrified of getting the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess.
  • The ship and its passengers have been quarantined in Yokohama Bay since February 3, though some governments evacuated their citizens this week.
  • As of Tuesday, 542 passengers have tested positive for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
  • In a video posted on YouTube Tuesday, Iwata described "completely inadequate" infection controls and said "everybody" on board "was not careful about it."
  • A Japanese health official hit back at Iwata's remarks, saying the ship was in good hands.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.  

A Japanese disease expert who inspected the Diamond Princess cruise ship said the hygiene conditions and disease controls on board were so bad, he was "so scared" of contracting the novel coronavirus himself.

The ship and all its passengers have been quarantined in Yokohama Bay, near Tokyo, since February 3. The number of infections on the ship have steadily risen, with 542 cases recorded as of Tuesday.

Professor Kentaro Iwata, 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's conditions.

Iwata - who helped fight Ebola and SARS from Africa and China during those outbreaks - described the Diamond Princess as being "completely inadequate" and medics on board being callous about the disease.

"The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control," Iwata said in a video blog posted to YouTube late Tuesday.

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

"I've dealt with a lot of infections - for more than 20 years - and I was in Africa dealing with the Ebola outbreak, other countries dealing with Cholera outbreak I was in China in 2003 dealing with SARS," he said.

"I 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 infection control should be."

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

Iwata also described seeing medical professionals on the ship taking what he considered inadequate measures to contain and prevent the virus.

He said he saw medics reusing their protective gear - or personal protective equipment (PPE) - as well as eating and touching their phones with the same gloves they used to examine the ship and patients.

"People were eating in one place, people were wearing PPE, in old PPE, and eating lunch with gloves on and just dealing with the smartphone in PPE," Iwata said.

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.

Fears that the Diamond Princess was carrying the coronavirus were sparked last month after one passenger tested positive for the virus after he disembarked the cruise in Hong Kong in late January. Some 3,700 passengers and crew had still been 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 in coronavirus cases, Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported.

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