From the New Year celebration to quarantine
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, many things turned out differently in 2020 than originally planned. The same happened to the passengers of the Diamond Princess, who set off on an Asian cruise on 20 January to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Five days after leaving Yokohama, the cruise ship reached the Chinese metropolis of Hong Kong, where a man with flu-like symptoms left the ship. At that time, nobody knew what the consequences would be. The Diamond Princess continued her voyage unperturbed, passing the docking stations of Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa. On 1 February, seven days after leaving the ship, the company was informed of a serious incident: The former passenger tested positive for COVID-19. On the same day, the vessel was quarantined by the Japanese authorities, but was allowed to continue its journey to its home port. Passengers were not informed of the developments until the arrival at the home port in Yokohama on 3rd February. The New Year's party continued without restrictions.
After docking, the Japanese health authorities entered the cruise ship to test the remaining passengers for COVID-19. The result: 10 of 30 tests were positive. The cruise ship, all passengers and crew were then quarantined on board for 14 days in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. None of them were allowed to enter the mainland. With serious consequences: Two weeks later, on 29 February, when the last crew member left the cruise ship, 712 of the 3,711 passengers and crew members were infected with the COVID 19 virus.
Infection rate: 19.2%
Mortality rate: almost 2%.
The right preparation
While the passengers were still on board the ship, BELFOR was already working intensively on a disinfection concept in the background. In close coordination between the BELFOR Environmental Division, the Japanese health authority and an American industrial hygiene company, a protocol for the careful and safe disinfection of the ship was prepared. BELFOR only started the actual disinfection process when the last crew member left.
Disinfection according to plan
The challenge: the disinfection of a surface of almost 111,500 m². This corresponds to an area of about 15 football pitches. Or - for a cruise ship - 2,000 cabins, a casino, a theatre, an art gallery, restaurants, a nightclub and a fitness area. Originally a working time of 30 days was set for this. With an international team of 250 specialists working around the clock in three shifts, BELFOR was able to complete the project successfully after just 16 days.
In the interests of efficiency and effectiveness, disinfection was carried out vertically rather than horizontally per deck. The fire protection zones were used as the basis for this. This meant that heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems were disinfected first, and the existing filters were replaced with new ones.
The cabins were first cleaned of bed linen and other loose materials. The luggage of the passengers was put together. This allowed a systematic wipe disinfection from top to bottom.
The next steps: cleaning and disinfection of the carpets and hard floor coverings. Special attention was paid to hand contact surfaces and highly frequented areas.
The safety of the employees during the disinfection process had the highest priority. For this reason, they were extensively trained for their task in advance and the highest levels of occupational safety were maintained.
What can companies do to prevent the risk of workplace infections? There are three scenarios for them:
Scenario 1: The company has no suspicion of infection
Even if there is no suspicion of infection in the company, it is still possible to have the premises thoroughly cleaned. Especially if the employees are still working in their home office. In this way, you reduce the possible risk of infection and at the same time avoid disruptions in the work process.
Scenario 2: The company suspects infections
If there is a possibility that an employee may have become infected with COVID-19, you should have the building thoroughly disinfected as there is a risk of contamination. By disinfecting the rooms and surfaces, you can reliably protect your employees.
Scenario 3: The company has confirmed infections
If there is a confirmed case in the company, an industrial hygienist should be consulted. This person will develop a hygiene concept including a comprehensive disinfection plan. In case of a confirmed case, it is essential to disinfect the premises. This is the only way to ensure that no other employees become infected during their working hours.