The Defense Ministry has bolstered protective measures for its medical staff on the Diamond Princess, applying a stricter protocol for using gear on the infected cruise ship, Defense Minister Taro Kono said Friday.
About 50 staffers from the Self-Defense Forces are working on the vessel to examine the passengers, disinfect cabins and transport patients. The ship was quarantined for two weeks off Yokohama on Feb. 5 to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in Japan.
Those handling medicine are now required to wear masks, gloves, gowns and hair caps, ministry officials said.
At a news conference, Kono admitted that the Defense Ministry applied the standards — which are higher than those in use by health ministry officials working on the vessel — after viewing a video from the ship posted by Dr. Kentaro Iwata of Kobe University Hospital, who joined the disaster-relief team as a veteran infectious disease specialist.
Kono said the ministry is not in a position to judge the validity of Iwata’s claims as the health ministry is in charge of the quarantine. Friday’s step was a precaution, he said.
In the video, Iwata said the situation aboard the ship was “chaotic” and that anyone working inside could get infected with the potentially deadly virus. The doctor reportedly boarded the ship on Tuesday.
“It’s quite important to ensure that all of the SDF personnel will come back without being infected,” Kono said. “That’s why we have applied higher protection standards than those of the health ministry.”