In 2020, the world was hit by an unprecedented disaster – COVID-19. With 70 million confirmed cases, 1.6 million deaths, stagnant people, the global economy is in the worst recession since World War II…
Life is slowly recovering, but the coronavirus has undoubtedly been deeply imprinted in everyone’s memory. What will this memory leave for mankind in the end? Lockdown? Social distancing? Or is it a better response in the face of a new epidemic in the future?
From now on, The Paper International launched a series of reports on “Global Epidemic Record”, reviewing the joys and sorrows experienced by people in many countries in the past year, outlining the unprecedented picture of the world under the epidemic, and looking forward to where mankind and the earth will go.
“Looking from the cabin balcony to the dock, journalists, police, firefighters, medical workers and ambulances are neatly lined up and ready, as if they were dealing with outer space invaders, like crazy science fiction movies.” American writer Gay Courter still feels very unreal when recalling the cruise to the Diamond Princess 10 months ago.
During the blockade of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, journalists from various countries gathered in the media section on the Yokohama Pier. Photo by Philip Courter
In early February, the Diamond Princess, which was docked in Yokohama Port, Japan, carried more than 3,000 passengers and crew members from more than 50 countries and regions, like a small international community.
Before the coronavirus epidemic spread globally, the cruise ship, which had caused a cluster infection, attracted global attention and made headlines in the media. When all the passengers and crew got off the ship, their condition was rarely seen.
GAY COURTER, who is in his seventies, and her husband Philip Courter, once developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after disembarking from the Diamond Princess – constantly having nightmares at night and sometimes feeling dizzy. For this reason, they also sought psychological counseling.
Before boarding the ship, GAY COURTER wrote a murder story set on a cruise ship. He didn’t expect that he would really be on a “horror cruise ship” ravaged by the coronavirus epidemic. “We were like criminals in a luxury prison, bent on leaving the room and running away from the ship,” she told The Paper (www.thepaper.cn).
GAY COURTER spent more than half a year writing his experience of fleeing from the Diamond Princess into the book, reflecting on the warmth and coldness of the human feelings behind the military chaos. Now that the panic has subsided and the confusion has subsided, the crisis is like a mirror of the global epidemic.
GAY COURTER new book Quarantine! How I Survived the COVID-19 Crisis on the Diamond Princess. Interviewee Photo
“The mutually beneficial relationship between the media and us”
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced on February 5, 2020 that all people on the cruise ship Diamond Princess need to be quarantined at sea for 14 days.
At that moment, GAY COURTER knew that there were many bad lucks and had to save himself. “When I was a child, I lived in Japan for a short time. I understood that once the Japanese made a decision, it was difficult to change. Each country had its own unique way of governance, including cultural, political and other multiple complex factors.”
“We were one of the first passengers to make a voice out.” Mr. and Mrs. Court said that they contacted the American media at the beginning of the outbreak of the Diamond Princess, hoping to attract more media reports and tell the world about the dangerous situation on board, so as to get off the ship as soon as possible.
COURTER writes all year round, and her five books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, and her husband Philip is a documentary producer. Therefore, the American couple has a lot of media resources, so when they want to speak out, interviews from various countries are flocking to the media.
Mr. and Mrs. Court selected the most influential interviewees from the media in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea and other countries. In the conversation, they repeatedly stressed that “we are not safe” and contributed commentary articles to the Washington Post and other media. Due to different time zones, they are almost too busy to eat day and night. At the same time, Philip also used his expertise to shoot the dynamics of Yokohama Pier on the balcony of the cabin, sending videos to various media.
Due to too many interviews, the children of the Cootes assisted remotely in the United States, and were responsible for coordinating the interview schedule and advising them. The children suggested that the Cootes emphasize during the interview: “The epidemic on board is worsening, and the Japanese government is not responding well.”
Asked why he first chose to turn to the media for help than the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Japan and the U.S. government, COURTER hesitated for a few seconds before saying: “As we all know, the United States and Japan are allies, and the U.S. government cannot ask Japan to break the principle for the sake of a couple. And there are dozens of citizens of countries on board, which is not a matter for the United States and a country.
That’s why the Courts pin their hopes of getting off the ship on the power of the media and public opinion. COURTER said bluntly: “I must tell the truth. If there are passengers on the ship who died of COVID-19, these people’s mother Congress will be in trouble, and no one will want to come to Japan to watch the Olympic Games at that time.” Although a friend suggested that COURTER say less in a foreign country to avoid trouble, she said: “Even if the President of the United States is watching, I will say it.”
At that time, the call for help of American citizens did not receive an immediate response from the U.S. government. It was not until February 15 that the United States announced that it would send a special plane to pick up its own citizens stranded on the Diamond Princess, only two days before the end of the quarantine period.
COURTER did not think that her strategy of “specializing in the media” at that time failed. In an interview on the cruise ship, she repeatedly suggested that the Japanese government adopt a “Triage”, that is, classify passengers and give priority to vulnerable people to disembark. Halfway through the quarantine period, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that people aged 80 and above could disembark early. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and other media have issued articles pointing out that the move shows that the passengers’ suggestions have received official attention.
“There is a mutually beneficial relationship between the media and us.” The Courts said that they sought the attention of the “Diamond Princess” cruise ship through the media, and the media obtained the latest situation of the cruise ship through the Cootes. The two sides used and cooperated with each other to find the best solution to the crisis.
COURTER is in Quarantine! How I Survived the Diamond Princess’s Coronavirus Crisis
(Quarantine!: How I Survived the Diamond Princess Coronavirus Crisis) quotes British playwright Tom Stoppard in the preface of the book “If you The goal is to change the world, so I still believe that Journalism is a more direct weapon in the short term.”
“Strangers” who share solidarity
According to a report released by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan in July 2020, a total of 712 people on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, of which 14 died. In addition, nine medical staff who boarded the ship to carry out quarantine work were also diagnosed with the infection.
“At first, many people on board were too seriously about COVID-19.” COURTER believes that if people pay enough attention to the epidemic, things will not go this way.
On February 3, the captain told the air that one passenger who got off the ship nine days ago tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which coincided with the last day of the two-week cruise. When the ship slowly stopped at the port of Yokohama, the carnival on board continued.
In the 48 hours before the Japanese government announced the cruise blockade, the movement of passengers was unrestricted. COURTER saw many families collectively eating and drinking without masks. “They are all too close to worry.” In addition, the crew’s living environment is very small, and it is necessary to provide services to passengers every day. “The fate of us strangers is connected and we need to protect each other.” COURTER said.
When the entire crew of the ship was asked to be quarantined in their respective rooms, the Courts began to be grateful that they were living in a cabin with a balcony, which could see the Yokohama Pier. They were surprised to find that there were some “special passengers” who got off the ship early.
COURTER told The Paper that in the first few days of the cruise ship’s call in Yokohama, about 20 to 30 Japanese-looking passengers disembarked the ship. “I speculate that they may be celebrities, politicians or people related to the government, so they have received special preferential treatment, but I have no conclusive evidence.”
In addition, she noticed that a Southeast Asian-looking woman got off the ship early in a gorgeous mink coat. “Japan’s health department has double standards for passengers?” COURTER put this question in mind, not angry about it, but understands that there may be people who enjoy special preferential treatment in every country.
By contrast, the sticking of the captain of the Diamond Princess, Gennaro Arma, moved the passengers, who was the last person to disembark. COURTER said Alma became the most dependent source of information for passengers, “We were very excited whenever the captain’s voice was on the radio and eager to get the latest information on the ship.”
On the ninth day of the ship’s lockdown was Valentine’s Day, when the Cootes had lost the concept of time and felt that everything was beyond their control. “There was a feeling of being a ‘taken’.” Unexpectedly, the captain and crew sent chocolates and roses to each passenger that day, thus alleviating the passengers’ anxiety of long-term isolation.
Encouraged passengers expressed their gratitude to the cruise crew. Some passengers posted “We love you” on the door of the cabin, some children drew greeting cards, and more people thanked them on social media. In a short period of time, dramatic scenes happened one after another, and COURTER immediately felt that this adventure was like a condensation of a life.
Where is the end of the epidemic?
After returning to the United States by special plane, the Courts spent two weeks of isolation at the U.S. military base in Texas before finally returning to their home in Crystal River, Florida. When he got home, COURTER wrote 10 to 12 hours a day, while Philip was busy making documentaries.
“We are very lucky not to be infected with the novel coronavirus, and we hope to stay for decades.” COURTER talks about his recent life, plain and happy. At present, they often take a walk by the Crystal River and occasionally see manatees swimming by. However, when it comes to the pandemic in the United States, her tone suddenly becomes serious.
“The worse and worse of the pandemic in the U.S., with many people who are reluctant to wear masks and think that masks are political and that not wearing masks is a manifestation of freedom, it is simply crazy. They have no right to make others sick.” COURTER said that his nephew was an emergency doctor in New York and “he was going crazy because he saw too many coronavirus patients die.”
COURTER is pessimistic about the direction of the epidemic in the United States: “Even if the coronavirus vaccine is on the market, some Americans are reluctant to get the vaccine because they don’t believe that they will get the novel coronavirus at all. This is influenced to some extent by President Trump, who has disdained the coronavirus. “
At present, the United States is facing a change of government, and President-elect Biden recently announced that he will achieve three goals within 100 days of his appointment – wearing masks, vaccinated against the novel coronavirus and opening schools. In addition, former U.S. Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush all expressed their willingness to openly vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to increase public confidence in the vaccine.
“While I hope Biden can put America on track when he comes to power, he really struggles to get everyone to wear a mask.” “We don’t know where the end of the pandemic is right now,” COURTER said.