Jamaica insists on health guidelines in stand-off with cruise company

Jamaica's health authorities last night reiterated that interim guidelines relating to the admittance of cruise ships to the island's ports have been drafted and circulated to The Port Authority of Jamaica and relevant agencies.

The measures were outlined by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in light of what appears to be a disagreement between Jamaica and Carnival Cruises over the guidelines implemented in wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The ministry, in a news release, pointed out that under the guidelines, any passenger or crew who has travelled, within the last 14 days, to any country for which a landing restriction is in place will not be allowed to disembark. 

“The decision to grant these privileges to other passengers or crew will be dependent on a review of ill persons on-board for a determination as to whether their symptoms include fever and/or respiratory illnesses, either at the time of arrival in Jamaican waters or during the cruise,” the ministry said.

The news release followed a report published by Cruise Law News that Jamaica and the Cayman Islands had informed two Carnival cruise ships that they are prohibited from calling on ports in both countries over concerns with COVID-19.

Cruise Law News said it was reporting information coming from crew members and passengers on the Carnival Freedom and Carnival Horizon who wished to remain anonymous.

According to Cruise Law News, passengers on the Carnival Freedom were notified yesterday around noon that they will not be permitted to go ashore in Jamaica or the Cayman Islands during their cruise, which left Galveston, Texas, on Sunday.

“The ship was scheduled to call on Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Wednesday, March 4, and George Town, Grand Cayman, on Thursday, March 5,” Cruise Law News reported.

“These countries also notified the Carnival Horizon that passengers and crew will not be permitted ashore in these countries,” the publication said, pointing out that the Carnival Horizon left Miami, Florida, on March 1. It was scheduled to call on Ocho Rios, Jamaica, yesterday and George Town, Grand Cayman, tomorrow.

But last night health authorities in Jamaica said that Jamaica had communicated with the cruise lines, through The Port Authority, all the information needed for assessment and to make a decision on whether to allow the ships to dock include providing a copy of the medical logs since the start of the voyage; that cruise lines should insist that all individuals with illnesses report to the ship's medical facility for treatment; that travel history, temperatures, and the presence or absence of respiratory symptoms be recorded and submitted for review.

Additionally, a travel history for all individuals in the medical log must be taken for all who present to the ship's medical facility; and that anyone who has a fever and/or respiratory symptoms who has been in a country where there is transmission of COVID-19 should be immediately isolated and close contacts quarantined in keeping with the World Health Organization's document on management of public health risks on ships.

Also, a temperature log is required of all individuals, including within the last 24 hours prior to arrival, travelling from the countries with travel restrictions within the past 14 days. Jamaica recommends that individuals with a travel history to countries with transmission of COVID-19 be monitored on-board as if in-home/self-quarantine.

Last week,  Jamaica blocked the MSC Meraviglia, carrying 4,500 passengers and more than 1,600 crew members, from docking after port health officials discovered that a crew member had been in isolation on-board

The vessel, which arrived from Miami, later set sail for George Town, Cayman Islands, but was also refused docking by that British overseas territory.

Health and Wellness Minister Christopher Tufton, who last night updated the nation on the novel coronavirus, noted that it has spread to more than 60 countries, fuelling widespread anxiety, as many consider the implications for public health.

“Here in Jamaica, we understand that anxiety and wish to reassure the public that we are, even now, enhancing our readiness for the very real possibility of the virus coming to our shores,” Dr Tufton said in a national broadcast.

Last night he told the Jamaica Observer, “These are extreme circumstances that require vigilance. We have a duty to protect the health and safety of the Jamaican people even as we value the cruise industry.”

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