Experts in Japan call for easing burdens on coronavirus-hit ship's crew

JIJI, Kyodo

Experts are calling for a reduced burden on crew members who have remained aboard the coronavirus-hit cruise ship quarantined off Japan to assist passengers.

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess cruise liner increases day by day, the crew members are facing a high risk of suffering mental stress while fulfilling their job responsibilities, according to the experts.

“Burdens on the crew are immense. They are under double stress stemming from a sense of mission and the anxiety that they might have been infected,” said Sho Takahashi, associate professor at the University of Tsukuba’s Faculty of Medicine.

Noting that passengers tend to vent their frustration on crew members, Takahashi said, “Employees aboard the ship should be protected.”

Some passengers expressed worries about the crew.

Yasuhito Hirasawa, a 64-year-old passenger from the city of Osaka who sent a letter to health minister Katsunobu Kato and other ministers in charge asking for the testing of all the passengers onboard, said the crew members are totally exhausted.

“A once-lively woman who offers customer services has become haggard,” said Hirasawa. “From the standpoint of a fellow human being, I hope care will be provided for the crew.”

Yoshiharu Kin, head of the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, expressed concern over the mental condition of the crew.

“Although they are doing their jobs, they are also like victims,” said Kin, an expert on mental health as it relates to disasters. “They may blame themselves if they continue to face passengers’ frustration.”

A survey on stress suffered by those who provided assistance following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 showed that understanding by supervisors and expressions of gratitude from disaster victims helped reduce their stress, according to Kin.

“It is important to acknowledge (crew members’) hardship and appreciate their services,” he said.

The cruise ship arrived at the port of Yokohama on Feb. 3. It was quarantined after a man who had left the ship in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus.

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