(Bloomberg) — Following an unexpected election triumph, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald wasted little time in calling for a united Ireland, demanding a referendum on reunification within five years.Meanwhile, one of her successful candidates regaled his celebrating supporters with the iconic “Up the RA” slogan, referring to the Irish Republican Army, the terror group which fought in the name of uniting Ireland. Another broke into a rousing rebel song commemorating the IRA’s fight with British forces in Dublin.So nearly a century after its partition, is Ireland’s wave of nationalist fervor leading inexorably to a movement to unite one of the last divided countries in Europe? Well, not quite.Despite the unification-themed celebrations, Sinn Fein ran as a populist, anti-establishment party. It won by building a coalition of nationalists, the socially liberal and those who simply wanted to smash the centrist system that’s dominated government for most of the country’s history. Its surge to take the popular vote in last weekend’s election had more to do with a focus on housing than patriotism.‘Momentum Is There’One thing that is clear is that Sinn Fein upended a political order that had seen power swapped between the two main parties — Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael and Fianna Fail — for much of Ireland’s history since independence from Britain in the 1920s, when the island was divided into north and south.But Sinn Fein does bring Irish unity to the forefront of the political debate — particularly in the wake of the U.K.’s historic, and potentially destabilizing, decision to leave the European Union.“Brexit has changed the nature of the discussion around reunification fundamentally,” said Colin Harvey, law professor at Queens University Belfast. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but I’m convinced we are going to have referendums within a decade. The momentum is there.”Ultimately, it’s up to London to call a border poll, and there’s little appetite for such a move anytime soon. But the sands are shifting. It’s been almost a century since the country was split to placate a largely Protestant, unionist majority in the north in the face of increasingly militant demands from the Catholic-dominated south for independence from Britain. By the turn of the 1970s, tension morphed into violence between sectarian groups that left more than 3,500 people dead. Sinn Fein emerged out of that morass.As the political wing of the IRA, the party started to contest elections in the 1980s as part of a strategy known as the “Armalite and the Ballot Box,” mixing violence and elections in pursuit of a united Ireland.The IRA’s tactics horrified many in the Irish Republic. Few openly discussed ending partition for fear of being seen to lend tacit support to the organization, and Sinn Fein struggled to gain much of an electoral foothold in the south, until recent years.‘Sense of Bitterness’Then came the 2016 Brexit vote and the tortured negotiations over how to keep the Irish border free of checkpoints after the U.K. left the EU. That “reawakened a sense of Irish nationalism, particularly in areas close to the border,” said Edward Burke, assistant professor in international relations at Nottingham University, who has examined the effect of Brexit on the British-Irish security relationship.“Brexit showed the British government’s indifference, if not occasional contempt, for concerns around the border question,” he said. “That fuels a sense of bitterness.”In Northern Ireland, after last year’s general election, nationalist lawmakers now outnumber unionists. In the wake of the Sinn Fein surge, former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern described a border referendum as “inevitable.” Yet, huge hurdles exist before the issue could be put on the ballot.“The premise which is being put forward is that a united Ireland could be around the corner,” said Martin Mansergh, a former Irish senator who was a government adviser during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement peace deal in 1998. “Well, most people outside Sinn Fein don’t accept that proposition.”Uneasy RelationsUnder the peace deal, the U.K. government can only call a reunification referendum when a vote would likely succeed. As yet, there’s no clear polling showing that there’s enough support in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein’s emergence could even make a vote on the issue less likely in the near term. The British government is already contending with an independence movement in Scotland, and the prospect of the party steering the emotionally charged process while in government in Dublin “makes it more dangerous and politically unstable,” said Nottingham University’s Burke.In Dublin, too, there’s nervousness about the financial and political consequences. The U.K. subsidizes Northern Ireland to the tune of about 10 billion pounds ($13 billion) a year — about 17% of Ireland’s tax take in 2019. Taking on that kind of obligation could capsize the nation’s finances.Outside Sinn Fein, there’s no huge enthusiasm for the project. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, which together control close to half to seats in parliament, urge caution.Unionist leaders in Northern Ireland are particularly wary and refused even to attend an Irish government forum on the implications of Brexit in 2016, let alone discuss unity. “Sinn Fein might be just a step too far for many, many unionists in Northern Ireland,” said Mary C. Murphy, a lecturer in politics at University College Cork. “Sinn Fein is the hard edge of Irish nationalism.”\–With assistance from Morwenna Coniam.To contact the reporter on this story: Dara Doyle in Dublin at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at email@example.com, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Jeff Bezos Commits to Spending $10 Billion to Fight Climate Change
(NEW YORK) — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Monday that he plans to spend $10 billion of his own fortune to help fight climate change.
Bezos, the world’s richest man, said in an Instagram post that he’ll start giving grants this summer to scientists, activists and nonprofits working to protect the earth. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change,” Bezos said in the post.
Amazon, the company Bezos runs, has an enormous carbon footprint. Last year, Amazon officials said the company would work to have 100% of its energy use come from solar panels and other renewable energy by 2030.
The online retailer relies on fossil fuels to power planes, trucks and vans in order to ship billions of items all around the world. Amazon workers in its Seattle headquarters have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices, pushing it to do more to combat climate change.
Bezos said in the post Monday that he will call his new initiative the Bezos Earth Fund. An Amazon spokesman confirmed that Bezos will be using his own money for the fund.
Despite being among the richest people in the world, Bezos only recently became active in donating money to causes as other billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have done. In 2018, Bezos started another fund, committing $2 billion of his own money to open preschools in low-income neighborhoods and give money to nonprofits that help homeless families.
Bezos, who founded Amazon 25 years ago, has a stake in the company that is worth more than $100 billion.
Apple Sales Will Miss; U.S. Cruisers Quarantined: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) — A case study of a patient who died from the new coronavirus shows similarities with two prior deadly coronavirus outbreaks. Apple Inc. said it would miss its quarterly revenue target because of the virus.The U.S. evacuated citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise liner, including 14 who tested positive for the virus, and will quarantine more than 300 passengers. The U.S. is still figuring out what to do with American passengers on another cruise ship who disembarked in Cambodia, including one who tested positive.Beijing may delay a high-profile political meeting for the first time in decades because of the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 71,000 and killed 1,775 globally. Key DevelopmentsChina death toll 1,770, up 105; mainland cases rise to 70,548Hubei adds 1,933 new cases, up from 1,843 a day earlierFour missed chances for China to contain outbreakFears of global contagion as 3,000 cruise passengers go homeClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the novel coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.Apple to Miss Guidance Because of Virus (4:15 p.m. NY)Apple Inc. doesn’t expect to meet its revenue guidance for the quarter ending in March due to work slowdowns from the outbreak of coronavirus in China. The company said it anticipates global supply of the iPhone to be “temporarily constrained.”Read the full story here.Japan Cruisers Quarantined; Westerdam Passengers Loose (3:19 p.m. NY)More than 300 U.S. citizens evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have returned home to begin a 14-day quarantine on military bases and for treatment in hospitals.The repatriation ends a dramatic episode on the virus-struck ship, but came with a fresh complication: As the U.S. cruise passengers were on a bus heading for Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Japanese test results showed that 14 had the virus. And a positive test from another cruise ship that disembarked passengers in Cambodia has raised concerns about further spread of the virus around the globe.Of the Japan evacuees, 171 will be held at Travis Air Force Base between San Francisco and Sacramento, with six people sent to a local hospital for treatment, said William Walters, a senior official with the State Department‘s Bureau of Medical Services.A further 144 passengers evacuated on a separate flight will be housed at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. Seven people on that flight were flown on to Omaha for treatment at the University of Nebraska.The newly diagnoses cases involved people who did not show any symptoms of the coronavirus but were diagnosed by Japanese lab tests, Walters said.The fate of hundreds of Americans coming off another cruise ship now docked in Cambodia is less clear. One of the passengers, an 83-year-old woman, was diagnosed with the virus while passing through Malaysia, and is being held in isolation there. Roughly 300 U.S. citizens who were on the Westerdam have left Cambodia, according to the State Department. But 92 remain on the ship and a further 260 are staying in hotels in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.Walter said the U.S. government was tracking those citizens but had not yet made a decision on whether to send special flights to bring them home. Health officials across the world have said that catching and isolating cases of the virus before it spreads is crucial to stopping it.Damage Cause by Virus Resembles SARS, MERS (2 p.m. NY)Doctors studying a 50-year-old man who died in China last month from the new coronavirus found that the disease caused lung damage reminiscent of two prior coronavirus-related outbreaks, SARS and MERS.Read the full story here.Cruise Travel Risks Remain ‘Manageable’ Despite Virus, WHO Says: (12 p.m. NY)Cruise ship travel remains a “manageable risk” for now, and it doesn’t make sense to recommend a ban on it, the World Health Organization said, even as the return home of 3,000 travelers from two coronavirus-stricken cruise ships fuels fears of further contagion.“People say we should steer clear of cruise ships, or steer clear of airports or steer clear of certain ethnic groups,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press briefing Monday at the organization’s Geneva headquarters. “We have to be really careful” of such suggestions. “We need an approach to managing risk that allows us to continue to operate as a society.”Hong Kong Virus Stress Worsens With Maids, Nannies Stuck Abroad: (11:05 a.m. NY)The Philippine ban on travel to Hong Kong is taking its toll on migrant workers, mostly women, who are part of Hong Kong’s domestic labor force. In a survey of more than 900 Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong by placement agency HelperChoice, almost half said they were affected by the travel ban or knew someone who was.Virus Outbreak Boosts Tissue Paper Prospects in China (10:30 a.m. NY)As the outbreak ripples through China’s economy, one industry seems to be thriving. Shares of tissue paper maker Vinda International Holdings have surged 40% this year even as the main Hong Kong index is little changed. The rally may have legs. Top pulp exporter Suzano SA expects growth in China’s tissue market to accelerate amid shifts in hygiene habits.El Al CEO Sees Hard Days Ahead for Israeli Airline: (9 a.m. NY)El Al Israel Airlines is facing difficulties because of the spread of the coronavirus and may be forced to make some “painful decisions,” CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a letter to staff, without specifying what that may entail.A decision by Israel’s Health Ministry on Sunday to send travelers returning from Thailand into home quarantine for 14 days has cut demand for this destination, and the company is allowing customers to change or cancel tickets, the CEO said. Last week, the carrier suspended flights to Hong Kong until March 20 and flights to Beijing until April 24.Slump in Global Goods Trade Likely to Deepen: WTO (7:30 a.m. NY)The already slumping state of global goods trade may get even worse with coronavirus, the World Trade Organization warned.The Geneva-based body said its merchandise trade barometer fell to 95.5 from 96.6 in November. That’s before factoring in the effects of China’s health crisis on international commerce.“The slow start could be dampened further by global health threats and other recent developments in the first few months of the year,” the WTO said. In the months ahead, “every component of the Goods Trade Barometer will be influenced by the economic impact of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of efforts to treat and contain the disease.”China Sees Positive Trend in Coronavirus Epidemic: CCTV (7 a.m. NY)China’s anti-virus efforts have led to a positive trend for the epidemic nationwide, according to China Central Television, which cited Premier Li Keqiang’s comments at a meeting. The spread of coronavirus has weakened, and China has avoided a wider outbreak through all-out control, Li was quoted as saying.Top policymakers are seeking to balance the anti-virus fight with shoring up the economy, which has been running at just 40% to 50% capacity in the last week, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.Bundesbank Warns of Hit to German Exporters (6 a.m. NY)The central bank called the outbreak a “cyclical downside risk” and said a temporary decline in overall Chinese demand could damp German export activity. “Moreover, some global value chains could be impaired by security measures put in place,” the Bundesbank said in a report.Outside the European Union, China is second only to the U.S. in importance to German companies, with close to $108 billion of sales a year. The European Commission last week called the epidemic a “key downside risk” to its forecasts, while European Central Bank Chief Economist Philip Lane said the region’s economy could experience a “pretty serious short-term hit.”China’s Economy Seen Growing Slowest Since 1990 (6:52 p.m. HK)The coronavirus outbreak and China’s efforts to stop the spread mean the economy will grow slower this quarter than first thought — the median forecast now is for growth to be the slowest in 30 years.China’s gross domestic product will grow 4% in the first quarter, according to the median of 18 forecasts since Jan. 31. That’s down from 5.9% in the last survey on Jan. 22 and the lowest level since 1990.Chinese City to Start Subsidizing Car Purchases (5:57 p.m. HK)The southern Chinese city of Foshan will start providing rebates for car purchases starting March 1. Consumers who trade in old models will be entitled to 3,000 yuan ($430) of subsidies while buyers who opt for new cars are entitled to 2,000 yuan per vehicle.President Xi Jinping has urged local governments to help boost auto sales, according to a speech by him carried on Qiushi Journal, the Communist Party’s top publication on Saturday.Singapore Issues Stricter Rules for China Returnees (5:34 p.m. HK)Singapore residents or long-term pass holders returning from mainland China must stay in their homes at all times for 14 days and closely monitor their own health, under stricter guidelines issued today.Macau Casinos Allowed to Reopen (5:30 p.m. HK)Casinos in the world’s biggest gambling hub will be able to resume operations on Thursday, following an unprecedented closure for 15 days to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Lei Wai Nong, secretary for economy and finance in the Chinese territory of Macau, said casinos can reopen Feb. 20, though it will be conditional based on criteria that he didn’t specify.Macau closed casinos for a 15-day period that began Feb. 5, in the longest shutdown ever for the world’s biggest gambling hub. MGM said it’s losing $1.5 million a day in Macau, while Wynn Resorts Ltd. said it is losing about $2.5 million a day.Earlier, Sands China President Wilfred Wong told Cable TV he expects few customers when casinos first re-open, and believes it will take two-to-three months before business can return to normal.China May Delay Annual CPPCC Meeting: CCTV (5:09 p.m. HK)Beijing is studying a proposal to delay the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s political advisory body, state-run China Central Television reported.This follows an official Xinhua report that said China is considering delaying the annual session of the National People’s Congress, its most high-profile annual political meeting, for the first time in decades. The two meetings were originally scheduled to start early March.Japan Says 99 New Infections From Cruise Ship (5:05 p.m. HK)Japan said 99 more people from the Diamond Princess cruise tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 454.A pair of aircraft chartered by the U.S. State Department took off early Monday to bring home Americans from the ship. Australia and Hong Kong will also use chartered flights to evacuate citizens and permanent residents who have been stranded on the ship.Cathay Pacific Warns on Results (4:45 p.m. HK)First-half financial results will be “significantly down” from a year earlier, Cathay Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said in a statement. Cathay is particularly exposed to the virus because sales from Hong Kong and China account for about half of its total revenue.Separately, China’s three largest airlines reported declines in January passenger traffic because of the coronavirus outbreak, with the shortfalls likely to deepen this month as the epidemic continues to disrupt travel for millions of people. Airlines began suspending flights from about Jan. 23 after the government began locking down Wuhan and other Chinese cities.U.S. Factories in China Don’t Have Enough Staff (3:57 p.m. HK)Most U.S. factories in China’s manufacturing hub around Shanghai will be back at work this week, but the “severe” shortage of workers due to the coronavirus will hit production and global supply chains, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.While about 90% of the 109 U.S. manufacturers in the Yangtze River delta expect to resume production this week, 78% of them said they don’t have sufficient staff to run at full speed, according to a survey by AmCham.Beijing Auto Show Delayed (3:48 p.m. HK)China’s annual auto show, scheduled to be held in Beijing in April, will be pushed back because of the coronavirus outbreak. The new dates will be announced later, the organizer said in a statement on Monday.Taiwan Scours Taxi Driver’s Data to Trace Virus Path (12:44 p.m. HK)Health authorities in Taiwan are scouring travel histories, phone records and security camera footage in an effort to map out everyone who came into contact with a taxi driver who became Taiwan’s first confirmed death from the coronavirus.The victim, a man in his 60s from central Taiwan who died Saturday, had not recently traveled overseas and had no recorded contact with any of the 19 other people diagnosed with the coronavirus in Taiwan, according to a statement from Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control.Singapore, Thailand Cuts Growth Outlooks (12:32 p.m. HK)Singapore and Thailand downgraded their forecasts for economic growth this year as the coronavirus outbreak hits tourism and trade.Singapore’s Ministry of Trade & Industry projected growth in a range of -0.5% to 1.5% in 2020, compared with a previous estimate of 0.5% to 2.5%. The city state, which has more than 70 cases of virus infections, is losing as many as 20,000 tourists a day amid travel curbs.Growth in Thailand is seen in a range of 1.5%-2.5% this year, down from a previous projection of 2.7%-3.7%, the National Economic and Social Development Council said.Bridgewater, Dalio Donate $10 Million for Virus Fight (12:27 p.m. HK)Billionaire Ray Dalio’s family charity and his hedge fund Bridgewater Associates LP are donating $10 million to help support China’s coronavirus relief efforts. The money will go to Peking University First Hospital, Union Hospital for Clinical Care and three medical teams led by academics in Wuhan, the world’s largest hedge fund said in an emailed statement Monday.Nintendo Is Likely to Suffer Global Switch Shortages (12:21 p.m. HK)Nintendo Co. is likely to struggle to supply sufficient Switch consoles to its U.S. and European markets as soon as April due to a production bottleneck caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to people with knowledge of the company’s supply chain.China Stocks Rebound From Sell-off (10:13 a.m. HK)China’s stock benchmark recouped all its losses from a record $720 billion sell-off earlier this month, a sign that investor confidence is improving after policy makers acted to ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.China’s government has pumped cash into the financial system, trimmed money-market rates and offered targeted tax cuts. Beijing will also allow local governments to sell another 848 billion yuan ($121 billion) of debt before March, as authorities seek to offset the economic shock of the coronavirus.Coronavirus Cases Top 70,000 (9:13 a.m. HK)China reported 2,048 additional coronavirus cases by the end of Feb. 16, bringing the total case count to 70,548, according to a statement from National Health Commission.China’s Hubei province reported 1,933 additional confirmed cases. While that’s slightly higher than a day earlier, it’s in line with a lower trend over the past several days. The province announced a stunning 15,000 new cases on Thursday after revising its method for counting infections.The death toll in China increased by 105 to 1,770. More than 10,000 patients have been discharged so far. There are now five fatalities outside of mainland China, after France and Taiwan reported deaths over the weekend.\–With assistance from Abeer Abu Omar, Ryan Beene, Dong Lyu, Jing Jin, Cindy Wang, K. Oanh Ha, Isabel Reynolds, Tony Czuczka, April Ma, Takashi Mochizuki, Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Siraphob Thanthong-Knight, Natalie Lung, Jason Scott, Shawn Donnan and Vince Golle.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Steve Geimann in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Karen Leigh in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Drew Armstrong in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rachel Chang at email@example.com, ;Adveith Nair at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jeff Sutherland, Anne PollakFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Inside Life on the Crew Decks on Coronavirus-Stricken Diamond Princess Cruise Ship
Three times a day, Gie and her team push a convoy of dining carts through the corridors of the quarantined luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess. Wearing face masks and gloves, they stop at occupied rooms, greeting passengers and delivering meals before moving on to the next deck.
The task runs like clockwork — crew members offload appetizers, the main course, drinks and utensils, largely in that order. (Sometimes, there’s dessert.) But lately, something often interrupts their flow: The thank you notes stuck on many cabin doors, written by passengers and addressed to the crew.
On one suite’s door, the word “thank you” is written in ten languages. On another note, a passenger writes, “Thanks for your dedicated support. Take care of your health.”
“Even though the passengers are wearing masks when they answer the door, I can see their smiles. I can see in their eyes. They appreciate everything we do for them,” Gie, 33, says. “That keeps us going.”
The gratitude from passengers is understandable. With at least 454 confirmed cases, the cruise ship has the largest outbreak of novel coronavirus outside China, and passengers are under strict quarantine, largely confined to their cabins. The crew members have been the only lifelines for passengers. They deliver food, water, towels, medication and anything else passengers request.
“They’ve basically been told that they need to take care of all these potentially sick people,” says Kent Frasure, a 43-year-old passenger from Portland, Oregon. “They’re kind of the unsung heroes here.”
But while the 2,600-some passengers on board enjoy free Internet, streaming movies and TV shows and playing with puzzles and games to pass the time in their private cabins, crew members — mostly from the Philippines and other developing nations — have continued working. Those given food delivery duties are up before 6 a.m. to serve breakfast, to work through as late as 10 p.m. for the end of dinner service.
And they are doing it at risk to their own health. At least 33 crew members have been infected with coronavirus.
Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival, said in a statement that, “our guests and crew onboard Diamond Princess are the focus of our entire global organization right now and all of our hearts are with each of them.” The cruise line did not respond to requests for comment.
And as the U.S., Australia, and Hong Kong send chartered planes to evacuate passengers on board the ship, several crew members told TIME they do not know what the cruise line’s plan for them is once the quarantine ends on Feb. 19.
Life below deck
Crew members aboard the Diamond Princess aren’t afforded many of the same protections as the passengers they serve. Public health experts have said cruise ships are especially susceptible to the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 because passengers are in close, frequent contact with each other. For the crew, it’s even more so.
They live on decks below sea level, bunking with one or two other people and sharing a toilet with them. They dine in shifts at a mess hall, where cafeteria tables seat up to 12 people. Only ten days into the 14-day quarantine did Princess Cruises ask crew members to take an extra precaution when eating — to leave an empty seat between people at a table, upon advice from the Japanese health authorities, according to one crew member interviewed by TIME.
The cruise company has given all crew members thermometers, and those who have a fever must report it. But they aren’t isolated.
Obet, a crew member in his 30s who also asked to be referred to with an alias, had been arranging meals and delivering them to passengers before he came down with a fever last week. When he reported it, he was told to isolate himself in his cabin and take the acetaminophen (a generic pain reliever) he had with him. After he ran out of pills, it took a day for the medical team to give him more.
Although he had recovered from his fever, Obet was told not to return to work. But he was still sharing a room with a cabin mate who was not experiencing any coronavirus symptoms. Obet says he did his best to keep a distance from him, and wore a mask whenever he was in the room.
“There’s nothing we can do,” says Obet. “There’s not enough cabins for those sick crew members [to isolate themselves in] so they decided to tell us to just stay in our cabins.”
Obet and his cabin-mate were tested for the coronavirus last week. On Saturday afternoon, they received the news that both of them were infected. They were taken to a hospital later that evening, where their temperatures and vitals are now being checked at least twice a day. Obet says he is taking pills for a mild cough he still has, but otherwise says he is feeling “energized.” His cabin mate still has no visible symptoms.
“There’s lots of crew also getting infected and it’s becoming more alarming for us,” Obet told TIME before his diagnosis. “We don’t know if we’re still safe on board.”
An assistant cook from India who asked to stay anonymous says kitchen workers wear masks and gloves at all times. To his knowledge, no one in the kitchen has been infected with the virus. “We are taking all the necessary precautions,” he says. “Nobody wants to play with life.”
Of the 1,045 crew members on the Diamond Princess, around half, like Gie and Obet, are from the Philippines. Joining the cruise industry is an attractive option for many from the Southeast Asian nation — they can make more money than working back home, and are free to get off the ship and do their own traveling during off-hours. One crew member who has been in the cruise industry for a little over a year said he had visited 10 countries. But a job on a cruise ship comes at the expense of time with family; most crew members sign on for contracts that keep them away from home for nine months at a time.
Gie, a mother of two, was meant to return to the Philippines next month. It would be the first time she’s seen her family since last July, when she embarked on the cruise. But because of the virus outbreak, it looks unlikely that she can go home as planned.
Other crew members come from countries including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Russia and Ukraine. The passengers they serve come overwhelmingly from richer countries. Japanese tourists make up a majority of the 2,666 passengers onboard the Diamond Princess. The rest are from the U.S, U.K. and Australia, among other nations.
‘We’re just being positive’
Gie has worked as a server on the Diamond Princess for about seven months. Normally, she waits tables at one of the restaurants on deck, taking orders and interacting with the ship’s passengers . But that changed when the ship went under quarantine on Feb. 5, after the company learned a passenger who disembarked earlier had tested positive for the coronavirus. The ship has been docked at Yokohoma, Japan, ever since.
The restaurant Gie used to serve in has been reduced from a bustling eatery to a quiet base for crew to organize food prepared by the kitchen team. “Of course we are really very scared. During the first two or three days, we were ranting, because we didn’t want to deliver, to face the passengers,” Gie says. “But we realize that it’s part of the job. We’re scared, but we’re just being positive. We try not to think about it.”
The cruise line makes sure the crew have sufficient masks and gloves to protect themselves, Gie adds. “We’re very particular with hygiene and sanitation. We wash our hands frequently. Sometimes we double up [on masks].”
Princess Cruises said last week it is offering crew members two months of paid vacation. Authorities in the Philippines said they would bring home the 500 or so Filipino crew members on the cruise, but did not indicate a timeline.
Crew spend the few off-hours they have calling family back home and updating social media. On Facebook, Gie counts down the days left till the end of the quarantine, quotes Bible verses and shares news articles on the rising number of coronavirus cases on the cruise.
In one Facebook post about yet another increase in the number of confirmed cases on the cruise, Gie wrote: “Still our spirits are high, this too shall pass.”
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