Canberra-based firm Aspen Medical has been called in to provide services for the coronavirus outbreak in Japan by Princess Cruises, whose Diamond Princess cruise ship remains docked in Yokohama.
The ship’s 3,700 passengers included 164 Australians who were on board when coronavirus was detected. Despite isolation measures, the virus spread rapidly and hundreds of people on board tested positive.
The company says that disembarkation of all passengers aboard the Diamond Princess is now complete after US, Australian and other nationalities were evacuated from the ship progressively by their governments. Some passengers who tested positive for coronavirus (properly known as COVID-19) were also removed from the ship and taken to Japanese hospitals for treatment.
After arriving in Darwin, Australian passengers were required to go through a further 14 days of mandatory quarantine in the Northern Territory. Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said last week that eight cases had been confirmed among the Australians evacuated from the ship.
It was reported on Sunday (1 March) that a West Australian man who had been on the ship had become the first Australian to die from the virus.
Currently, there are fewer than 500 staff remaining on board the ship. The Japanese Ministry of Health will provide a shoreside quarantine facility for those team members who are not able to utilise government provided charter flights from their country of origin.
Around 60 professionals including doctors, nurses and environmental health officers along with food service and operations managers have been deployed by Aspen Medical under the arrangement.
Aspen Medical will provide services at the facility including daily health checks, laundry services, meal service, housekeeping service and assist with recreational activities.
This secondary quarantine is required by the Japanese Ministry of Health. Aspen Medical will be operating under the direction of the ministry, which is ultimately responsible for the quarantine process.
Aspen has extensive experience in highly contagious disease management situations, having managed several Ebola outbreaks in Sierra Leone and Liberia under contract by the Australian, New Zealand, British and US governments. Staff recently received commendations for outstanding overseas service for their work in the crises.
During the Ebola outbreak, Aspen Medical worked in remote areas where there was little to no infrastructure or support, dealing with terrified populations and also working to reintegrate survivors into their communities.
Around 1200 Aspen staff were deployed to the Ebola hotspots following intensive training that included critical infection control measures, issuing full hazard suits and even assistance with preparing their wills before deployment.
“Aspen Medical’s mission is to provide world-class healthcare wherever it’s needed most, where conditions are remote, challenging and under-resourced. We export the best of what Australia is about with compassion and a can-do attitude”, said Aspen Medical CEO Bruce Armstrong.
Aspen Medical has also worked on a cholera epidemic in Papua New Guinea, the tsunami in the Solomon Islands and malaria eradication in the Pacific.