Eddie Whitham's birthday next week will be one to remember as he it spends floating off the coast of Japan in a quarantined cruise ship after being caught-up in the global coronavirus crisis.
Eddie and wife Barbara have been much-loved advocates for multiculturalism in Tamworth for many decades.
The pair have travelled extensively, but their first visit to Japan has quickly descended into calamity.
The Whithams, along with more than 200 other Australians, have been on-board the Diamond Princess cruise-liner since January 5.
The ship has since been quarantined off the coast of Japan after 10 passengers were infected with the deadly coronavirus.
On Thursday afternoon, 10 more people on board tested positive for the deadly disease.
Japanese health authorities immediately moved those passengers to local hospitals.
Speaking to the Leader, Mr Whitham was remaining composed as passengers sat in limbo waiting for information and instruction on board.
"We do not know what is going on as we are only given the barest of detail," Mr Whitham said.
"The ship's people have been amazing.
"However you can now notice the grim countenances, fear behind their masks.
"We feel for the crew and the staff who are between a rock and a hard place."
He said passengers were being delivered meals in their cabins and free medical services and were being supplied to guests.
The Whithams along with the ships 3700 passengers now face two weeks' in isolation while quarantined on the boat off the coast of Japan near the port of Yokohama.
The Tamworth couple have been on the ship since last month and visited Singapore, Ho Chi Min City, Hong Kong, Taipei and several places in Japan.
Mr Whitham said they were screened by health officials in Okinawa.
The ship docked in Yokohama on Thursday to refuel and restock supplies before heading back out to sea.
He said some reports in the press had been "frivolous and flippant" and social media posts had been "over the top".
"People must allow the process to be executed," he said.
He thanked friends and family for support and well wishes during the "extraordinary circumstances".
"We miss our families and friends," he said.
"It's my birthday next Thursday but everyday is a present as we wait for the two weeks of quarantine.
"However, we are in a state of flux waiting."
The Department of Foreign Affairs is working with the Japanese government and the ship's staff to keep track of Australians on board.
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