How one couple is spending Valentine's Day at sea, on the ship quarantined for coronavirus
EDMONTON -- Spending Valentine's Day with your partner on a cruise sounds romantic – unless, perhaps, the cruise ship is effectively a floating Petri dish at sea, holding the novel coronavirus.
"We just had an email from a person we met couple weeks ago on board – a lady from Melbourne, and she got diagnosed – and she was told she's got a very mild case of coronavirus," Mark and Jenny Rodrigue told CTV News Edmonton in an interview on Feb. 13.
The Edmonton couple is two of more than 3,000 people aboard a Princess Cruises ship off the shore of Japan, mostly confined to their cabin under a two-week quarantine ordered by that country.
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"Her husband is not infected yet, or show any signs of being infected, so things get weirder all the time."
The total number of people taken off the ship after testing positive for the disease, which the World Health Organization has dubbed COVID-19, has surpassed 200, including at least 12 Canadians.
Ten people had tested positive for it when the ship was first quarantined outside Yokohama on Feb. 4.
The quarantine is expected to end on Feb. 19. The Rodrigues have not been told if it will be extended.
Early Thursday morning, Japanese health officials began a phased system of removing passengers who are most medically vulnerable to a shore-side facility.
"How we feel and I'm sure how everybody else on the boat feels, we need more answers… It'd be nice to get updates on that, just let us know what's going on with these people," Mark said.
"Or what our local governments are going to do. Like, how are they going to receive us? Are we going to go into another quarantine? We're in touch with the embassy, but all they're doing is giving us updates we can get from the news."
As the tally of those sick with coronavirus has grown, and the quarantine has worn on, the atmosphere on the ship has changed, his wife said.
"People are a little bit quieter. They're a little more to themselves, and they're not conversing as much, and there's no groups," Jenny recalled seeing on their third supervised walk since the quarantine began.
"People are being cautious. They're fearful and I know that's a human reaction, and we are cautious as well."
The couple of 35 years said cruise and Japanese officials have been communicative and have kept guests comfortable.
So, on Valentine's Day, with not much else to do, Mark and Jenny were ordering wine and shrimp.
"I have a hot date in a secluded cabin with my hubby," Jenny laughed.
Her husband joked, "What more could you ask for?"
"This will definitely be a memorable Valentine's Day, for sure," Jenny said.
And they had plenty of time to dream up celebrations for next year: Alaska.
"Maybe we'll go on a cruise."