Jamaica blocks cruise ship amid coronavirus caution

Jamaica blocks cruise ship amid coronavirus caution

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Fears about the threat of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) were again brought to the fore yesterday after the authorities blocked a cruise ship carrying 4,500 passengers and more than 1,600 crew from calling at Ocho Rios, St Ann.

According to the health ministry, the MSC Meraviglia was denied docking after port health officials discovered that a crew member was in isolation on-board.

“The crew member had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains with a travel history to a country of interest relating to the COVID-19,” the Ministry of Health and Wellness said.

The vessel, which arrived yesterday morning from Miami, is slated to set sail for George Town, Cayman Islands, this morning at 8:00.

Yesterday, the Daily Mirror newspaper in the United Kingdom said that reports on the ship suggested that Jamaican immigration had denied disembarkation after a crew member fell ill on-board. “Passengers have been seen standing on deck but there has been no confirmed cases detected, with one report saying action has been taken as a precaution,” the national daily reported yesterday afternoon.

One person posted on the cruise review portal cruisecritic.com, “Our ship was supposed to port in Jamaica today from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm but was not given clearance by the Jamaican port authority. At 1:30 the ship's captain made the decision to depart since there would not be enough time to disembark, even if we got clearance. We found out at 1:00 pm the reason for denial was because we have a sick crew member from The Philippines who has confirmed Influenza A - NOT the virus. Either way, Jamaica decided to be over cautious and deny us port. Sure hope this is not the case at our next 3 ports.”

On its website MSC Cruises said it had, on Monday, updated precautionary health measures for all guests and all crew who are due to travel on any of its cruises.

“The enhanced changes are to ensure the health and well-being of everyone on-board every one of our ships. These are additional measures to the ones we introduced on 24 January in light of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak that originated in China. We want to reassure you that everyone's health and safety on our ships is our top priority and we can confirm there have been no cases of coronavirus on-board any of our ships,” the Italian cruise line said.

In the meantime, The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) sought to allay fears, stressing that it continues to closely monitor the situation at the island's ports through effective management and consistently ensuring that all health and safety protocols are always observed.

Assistant vice-president for marketing communications at the PAJ Kimberley Stiff pointed out in a statement that the customary health and safety protocols that form part of routine port operations at both cargo and cruise ports have been heightened in light of the threat of the coronavirus.

She stressed that the multi-agency protocol that was developed in 2015 for a national response to the ebola threat still applies to all infectious diseases.

The PAJ's Security Department is responsible for monitoring all ports in Jamaica to ensure compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Currently, there are 20 port facilities across the island that trade internationally. Three of these ports are public ports which receive containers from all over the world.

The PAJ said that since the threat of the coronavirus, the cruise industry has implemented strict screening policies for home ports before allowing passengers to embark.

There are now 80,239 confirmed cases of the dreaded virus, and 2,666 deaths recorded worldwide as of yesterday.

The World Health Organization said it is working closely with the International Air Transport Association and both entities have jointly developed a guidance document to provide advice to cabin crew and airport workers, based on country queries.

The virus has been confirmed in 33 countries outside of China where it originated.

Over the past 24 hours, four new countries Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, and Afghanistan have reported cases of COVID-19. So far there have been 34 deaths outside of China.

The United States and Canada are the only two countries in the Americas which have reported confirmed cases 53 and 10, respectively.

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