A Kiwi couple trapped on a quarantined cruise ship outside of Japan amid the coronavirus outbreak are desperate to get home to their young children, as more people from the ship are diagnosed each day.
By Breanna Barraclough and Andrew Macfarlane
With eight days left to go in quarantine, James and Lulu, who asked for their surnames not to be used, spoke exclusively to 1 NEWS today - the first Kiwis from the locked down cruise ship to speak out.
"We would feel much safer back home than overseas, and now the biggest fear is if one of us has been diagnosed with the virus, they might separate us, and we don't want to be separated," Lulu says.
"That would be our biggest fear."
Two New Zealanders are in hospital in Japan being treated for the novel coronavirus after being confirmed to have contracted the disease.
They're two of 136 people from the 3711-strong ship who have been diagnosed in the last week.
The first case prompted an immediate lockdown of the ship and James says it's taking its toll.
"We're confined to our cabin, it's pretty rough going," he says.
"I've gotta commend the captain, staff, crew - they're doing their best under these trying circumstances, but it's pretty tough."
Their cabin is small, with no natural light. Everyday they check themselves for symptoms, including taking their temperature multiple times in a day.
The only time they get fresh air is during scheduled "outer deck time", an hour each trip.
Today was the third time they were able to get out of the cabin.
"We just want to get our fresh air, fresh time, get back in the cabin to minimise any exposure," James says.
Health authorities have confirmed the virus can transmit through the air, not just through physical human-to-human contact.
It's an uncomfortable thought for the people trapped on the boat as the number of cases grow.
"The captain assured us last night, because I think a couple of other passengers had a similar concern, that the air [for the air conditioning] is coming from the outside. It's fresh air being pumped through - it's not being recycled," James says.
"But several times a day we're being delivered food from the staff, and of course there's concern for us picking it up off the staff.
"And I think the staff are thinking the same thing every time they knock on the door of a cabin, and I'm sure they're worried as well."
James and Lulu have two children back home in New Zealand who stayed with their grandparents when the couple headed on the cruise as a treat for their 15th anniversary.
"[It's our] first time away from our kids and we're desperate to get home to our two young children," James says.
"I don't think anyone expected this."
In the meantime, they're taking each day as it comes - and hoping the quarantine period doesn't get extended.
"We've got eight nights to go," Lulu says, with James quickly adding: "Counting down!"
"We haven't actually been told anything [about the release date]. It's got us a bit nervous," he says.
"We're still hoping we can get off on the 19th at the end of quarantine. There's no official talk about extension but we've seen a couple of media articles that might mention that. We're pretty nervous on that."
Lulu says they're grateful for the efforts by authorities so far but have one wish.
"We just really want to get out of this and get home."