On January 20, 2020, the portent Diamond Princess sailed from the Japanese port of Yokohama for a cruise across the seas of Southeast Asia. The tour, with 3 711 people on board, it had everything to be a party. As usual, passengers had plenty of drinks and meals, had fun at kitschy balls and spent adrenaline in collective gymnastics and dance sessions. A huge contingent of crew members – there were exactly 1,045 employees on the ship – worked frantically so that the animation ran smoothly. Everyone was delighted when the Diamond Princess made a stop at Hong Kong’s stunning bay. Many disembarked to see the ex-British colony that now belongs to China up close, others joined the trip from that point. While they were sipping the thousand possible tannins, the passengers did not even pay attention to the news about a new and mysterious disease that, at that point, was plaguing only the Chinese province of Wuhan. But they would soon find out – in the worst possible way – what that coronavirus was.
The documentary The Last Cruise, which just debuted on HBO Go, captures the exact moment of the loss of global innocence. Diamond Princess passengers went from normality to Covid-19 nightmare without time to understand what was going on, and their fate sums up what was going on in the world. Or rather: what would happen soon afterwards. The ship was the scene of the first Covid-19 outbreak outside China. Within a few days, the virus infected 712 people inside that tourist bubble. Fourteen died. The disease came from a passenger from Hong Kong, who had previously visited the Chinese province of Guangdong.
The way The Last Cruise was produced is amazing. Filmmaker Hannah Olson was at her home in New York, weeks before the American city itself was hit with fury by the coronavirus, and it crackled when it saw on TV the drama of those people forced to remain confined in a ship infested by a deadly biological agent. . Deciding to tell her drama, she realized that many of the passengers not only continued to post texts and videos on social networks while they were locked on the ship, but also made their profiles an escape valve for daily afflictions. The director contacted several of these people, and started to direct them from a distance. With that, he obtained intimate images of the characters in the eye of the hurricane.
- Many of them did not even know the size of the ordeal that awaited them. When the first case was confirmed, the Diamond Princess’s cheerful and cozy atmosphere gave way to panic and confusion. People were kept locked in their cabins, and were monitored by Japanese health workers wearing protective clothing against the virus. Couples had to split up when one of them became positive, and was immediately removed to the hospital. A complex rescue operation to take home the 400 or so American tourists present was set up – and ended in a chaotic flight in which people without the virus had to live with patients separated only by a plastic partition. The worst situation, however, was that of the crew. Sleeping tight in collective cabins, they became easy prey for the coronavirus. Most of them were of Indonesian origin, and were only allowed to leave the ship when the drama had already entered the month of March and the country’s government finally went to rescue them.
The Diamond Princess tragedy brought at least one valuable lesson: it opened the eyes of health officials to what not should be done in the fight against Covid-19. The high contamination within the ship’s microcosm showed that the coronavirus spreads through the air in clusters, and is multiplied by the presence of asymptomatic people who spread the virus silently. Thus, he proved that the use of masks, until then not recommended by American doctors, was a fundamental weapon to control the spread of the disease. At a certain point in the documentary, a lady who maintained her high spirits even after taking Covid, comments: “I am asked if I will ever go on cruises again. Of course yes. In May I will do the next one. ” She survived, but of course she hasn’t taken any other cruises in May of troubled 2020, or any other month since. With the help of the vaccine, the world hopes that this desire can be fulfilled soon.
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